Hands-on first trimester screening course features nuchal translucency

The nuchal translucency (NT) screening has become an increasingly important resource for expectant parents to learn about potential Down syndrome or other possible health issues with the fetus. For sonographers, the technique requires specific training and practice to successfully perform it and become a credentialed practitioner.

The Fetal Medicine Foundation, an internationally known non-profit organization based in London and with offices in Ohio and Los Angeles (FMF USA), offers online training and a full credentialing process for sonographers and sonologists, as well as a Supervisory/Interpreting Physician process for those doctors who do not themselves scan but who employ fully-credentialed sonographers to perform the NT ultrasounds.  Naomi Greene, PhD RDMS RDCS, Director of Accreditation for the FMF, will offer hands-on training in first trimester nuchal translucency screening. She will also provide training for the additional ultrasound markers that can be used to accurately assess the risk of chromosomal and structural abnormalities and adverse pregnancy outcomes such as pre-eclampsia, preterm labor, and intrauterine growth restriction. The course, scheduled for October 19-20, is the result of collaboration between the FMF USA and Mint Medical Education.

The Fetal Medicine Foundation is an international organization founded by Professor Kypros Nicolaides, who developed nuchal translucency screening in the early 1990s. The Foundation supports medical education and training as well as research around the world. The U.S. affiliate has already accredited more than 1,000 practitioners in the techniques developed by Professor Nicolaides, and helps practitioners maintain the quality of their NT measurements over time with a gratis annual re-accreditation process, Greene says.

Nuchal translucency screening should now be offered to every pregnant woman, according to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and the State of California is the first state to mandate by law that all pregnant women be offered prenatal screening for chromosome abnormalities including NT testing in conjunction with the first and second trimester serum screening tests.

For sonographers, the technique takes time and practice to master, even for sonographers with many years of scanning experience.  Most applicants do not pass the first time they submit images for accreditation, Greene says.  “It’s actually not easy to do it properly but it is vital that it be done perfectly each and every time to assure each pregnant woman that she is getting accurate risks of the problems that may be present.”

The course will include a review and hands-on supervised practice with pregnant women in the appropriate window for first trimester testing. The course will also offer assistance setting up various ultrasound machines for this specific use. The second day lecture will include additional first trimester ultrasound markers such as nasal bone, tricuspid/ductus venosus/uterine artery Doppler that further refine a woman’s risk for aneuploidy as well as other fetal defects and poor outcomes.

Once completing the course, participants can go back to their own practices and acquire the images they need for accreditation.