Ultrasound biosafety: Knowledge and opinions of health practitioners who perform obstetric scans in South Africa
Background: Diagnostic ultrasound is generally considered as a safe test in pregnancy. To date
there is no evidence that ultrasound has caused harm to the developing foetus. However, with
the number of obstetric scans on the rise and the steep increase in acoustic output achieved by
modern machines, the lack of evidence of absolute safety remains a concern. Acoustic output
is under the direct control of the operator and is therefore the operator’s responsibility to keep
the intensity as low as reasonably achievable. A situation analysis in the South African context
was deemed necessary to determine end user knowledge and opinions on safe antenatal
Aim: The aim of this quantitative descriptive, cross-sectional study was to evaluate the
knowledge and practice of health practitioners who perform antenatal scans regarding safety
aspects of diagnostic ultrasound.
Setting: A self-administered questionnaire was distributed at two national congresses, hosted
by the South African Society of Ultrasound and Obstetrics (SASUOG) and South African Society
of Obstetricians (SASOG) committees.
Method: Quota non-probability sampling allowed for the identification of professional
categories capable of providing information relevant to the study objectives. The sample
represented a population with experience in obstetric ultrasound.
Results: Compared to international studies, South African end users demonstrated better
knowledge of safety indices than their international counterparts. It is, however, discouraging
that end users still demonstrate insufficient knowledge regarding factors contributing to
adverse biological effects.
Conclusion: With room for improvement, an effort should be made to comply with
international standards through increased training efforts and raising awareness.
Keywords: Obstetric Ultrasound; Ultrasound Bio-Effects; Safety Indices and Principles;
Acoustic Output; Mechanical Index; Thermal Index; Teratogenic; ALARA.
The author(s) retain copyright on work published by AOSIS unless specified otherwise.
Licensing and publication rights
Author(s) of work published by AOSIS are required to grant AOSIS the unlimited rights to publish the definitive work in any format, language and medium, for any lawful purpose. AOSIS requires journal authors to publish their work in open access under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) licence.
The authors retain the non-exclusive right to do anything they wish with the published article(s), provided attribution is given to the applicable journal with details of the original publication, as set out in the official citation of the article published in the journal. The retained right specifically includes the right to post the article on the authors’ or their institution’s websites or in institutional repositories.
Previously published work may have been published under a different licence. We advise the community that if they would like to reuse the work to consult the applicable licence at article level.
Note: If you need to comply with your funding body policy, you can apply for the CC BY license after your manuscript is accepted for publication.