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The nuchal translucency scan is a noninvasive and safe prenatal test that is typically offered early in pregnancy. This test cannot actually diagnose any medical conditions, but it can determine your baby's risk of having an abnormality. Find out what the procedure is all about and what to expect after it's completed.
Once you find out you're pregnant, you may want more information about your baby's development. One test that can help is the nuchal translucency scan, or NT scan.
This screening test is an ultrasound that's usually combined with a blood test. It will assess your baby's risk of having Down syndrome and some other abnormalities.
The NT scan is not a diagnostic test. This means that it can't tell you for sure whether your baby has a problem. Like all screenings, it can only evaluate your baby's chances of having one.
There's no risk to you or your baby with this screening. It is routinely offered in the first trimester, between 11 and 14 weeks.
In order to get the most accurate results possible, make sure you have a full bladder before the scan starts. This will elevate your uterus, which makes it easier to see your baby.
The sonographer first rubs gel onto your belly, then moves a small handheld device over the area to capture images of your baby on a monitor.
He then takes measurements to determine the baby's gestational age, but it's still too early to determine the sex.
Next, the sonographer measures the space in the tissue at the back of the baby's neck. Babies with abnormalities tend to accumulate more fluid here, making this space appear larger than normal during the ultrasound.
The entire scan usually takes about 15 to 20 minutes. When it's done, you can wipe off the gel and use the restroom.
Your results are calculated using the measurements from the ultrasound, your age, and findings from your blood test.
You might get the results before you leave, or you might have to wait a few days if the doctor has to send the data to a processing center.
The screening results are provided as a ratio. For example, you may learn that your baby's chances of having Down syndrome are 1 in 30 or 1 in 4,000. The bigger that second number, the lower the risk.
"High-five! Good to see you!"
"I'm happy with what I see. Let's go around the corner and we'll go over everything."
Your healthcare provider or a genetic counselor can help you interpret the results and understand your options for further testing.
As with all screening tests, the NT scan is not conclusive. An abnormal result does not necessarily mean that your baby has a health problem. And a normal test result can be wrong too.
For conclusive results, you need to have a diagnostic test like CVS or amniocentesis.
Despite its limitations, the NT scan is a simple, safe test that provides early information about the health of your baby.
Video production by MEg TV.