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Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews

Routine ultrasound for fetal assessment before 24 weeks' gestation

Overview of attention for article published in Cochrane database of systematic reviews, August 2021
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  • In the top 25% of all research outputs scored by Altmetric
  • High Attention Score compared to outputs of the same age (89th percentile)
  • Average Attention Score compared to outputs of the same age and source

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1 blog
18 tweeters
4 Facebook pages

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33 Mendeley
Routine ultrasound for fetal assessment before 24 weeks' gestation
Published in
Cochrane database of systematic reviews, August 2021
DOI 10.1002/14651858.cd014698
Pubmed ID

Andrea Kaelin Agten, Jun Xia, Juliette A Servante, Jim G Thornton, Nia W Jones


Ultrasound examination of pregnancy before 24 weeks gestation may lead to more accurate dating and earlier diagnosis of pathology, but may also give false reassurance. It can be used to monitor development or diagnose conditions of an unborn baby. This review compares the effect of routine or universal, ultrasound examination, performed before 24 completed weeks' gestation, with selective or no ultrasound examination.  OBJECTIVES: To assess the effect of routine pregnancy ultrasound before 24 weeks as part of a screening programme, compared to selective ultrasound or no ultrasound, on the early diagnosis of abnormal pregnancy location, termination for fetal congenital abnormality, multiple pregnancy, maternal outcomes and later fetal compromise. To assess the effect of first trimester (before 14 weeks) and second trimester (14 to 24 weeks) ultrasound, separately. We searched Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth's Trials Register, ClinicalTrials.gov, and the World Health Organization's International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP) on 11 August 2020. We also examined the reference lists of retrieved studies. We included randomised controlled trials (RCTs), quasi-RCTs, cluster-RCTs and RCTs published in abstract form. We included all trials with pregnant women who had routine or revealed ultrasound versus selective ultrasound, no ultrasound, or concealed ultrasound, before 24 weeks' gestation. All eligible studies were screened for scientific integrity and trustworthiness. Two review authors independently assessed trials for eligibility and risk of bias, extracted data and checked extracted data for accuracy. Two review authors independently used the GRADE approach to assess the certainty of evidence for each outcome MAIN RESULTS: Our review included data from 13 RCTs including 85,265 women. The review included four comparisons. Four trials were assessed to be at low risk of bias for both sequence generation and allocation concealment and two as high risk. The nature of the intervention made it impossible to blind women and staff providing care to treatment allocation.  Sample attrition was low in the majority of trials and outcome data were available for most women. Many trials were conducted before it was customary for trials to be registered and protocols published. First trimester routine versus selective ultrasound: four studies, 1791 women, from Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (US). First trimester scans probably reduce short-term maternal anxiety about pregnancy (risk ratio (RR) 0.80, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.65 to 0.99; moderate-certainty evidence). We do not have information on whether the reduction was sustained.  The evidence is very uncertain about the effect of first trimester scans on perinatal loss (RR 0.97, 95% CI 0.55 to 1.73; 648 participants; one study; low-certainty evidence) or induction of labour for post-maturity (RR 0.83, 95% CI 0.50 to 1.37; 1474 participants; three studies; low-certainty evidence). The effect of routine first trimester ultrasound on birth before 34 weeks or termination of pregnancy for fetal abnormality was not reported. Second trimester routine versus selective ultrasound: seven studies, 36,053 women, from Finland, Norway, South Africa, Sweden and the US. Second trimester scans probably make little difference to perinatal loss (RR 0.98, 95% CI 0.81 to 1.20; 17,918 participants, three studies; moderate-certainty evidence) or intrauterine fetal death (RR 0.97, 95% CI 0.66 to 1.42; 29,584 participants, three studies; low-certainty evidence). Second trimester scans may reduce induction of labour for post-maturity (RR 0.48, 95% CI 0.31 to 0.73; 24,174 participants, six studies; low-certainty evidence), presumably by more accurate dating. Routine second trimester ultrasound may improve detection of multiple pregnancy (RR 0.05, 95% CI 0.02 to 0.16; 274 participants, five studies; low-certainty evidence). Routine second trimester ultrasound may increase detection of major fetal abnormality before 24 weeks (RR 3.45, 95% CI 1.67 to 7.12; 387 participants, two studies; low-certainty evidence) and probably increases the number of women terminating pregnancy for major anomaly (RR 2.36, 95% CI 1.13 to 4.93; 26,893 participants, four studies; moderate-certainty evidence). Long-term follow-up of children exposed to scans before birth did not indicate harm to children's physical or intellectual development (RR 0.77, 95% CI 0.44 to 1.34; 603 participants, one study; low-certainty evidence). The effect of routine second trimester ultrasound on birth before 34 weeks or maternal anxiety was not reported. Standard care plus two ultrasounds and referral for complications versus standard care: one cluster-RCT, 47,431 women, from Democratic Republic of Congo, Guatemala, Kenya, Pakistan and Zambia. This trial included a co-intervention, training of healthcare workers and referral for complications and was, therefore, assessed separately. Standard pregnancy care plus two scans, and training and referral for complications, versus standard care probably makes little difference to whether women with complications give birth in a risk appropriate setting with facilities for caesarean section (RR 1.03, 95% CI 0.89 to 1.19; 11,680 participants; moderate-certainty evidence).  The intervention also probably makes little to no difference to low birthweight (< 2500 g) (RR 1.01, 95% CI 0.90 to 1.13; 47,312 participants; moderate-certainty evidence). The evidence is very uncertain about whether the community intervention (including ultrasound) makes any difference to maternal mortality (RR 0.92, 95% CI 0.55 to 1.55; 46,768 participants; low-certainty evidence). Revealed ultrasound results (communicated to both patient and doctor) versus concealed ultrasound results (blinded to both patient and doctor at any time before 24 weeks): one study, 1095 women, from the UK. The evidence was very uncertain for all results relating to revealed versus concealed ultrasound scan (very low-certainty evidence). Early scans probably reduce short term maternal anxiety.  Later scans may reduce labour induction for post-maturity. They may improve detection of major fetal abnormalities and increase the number of women who choose termination of pregnancy for this reason. They may also reduce the number of undetected twin pregnancies. All these findings accord with observational data.  Neither type of scan appears to alter other important maternal or fetal outcomes, but our review may underestimate the effect in modern practice because trials were mostly  from relatively early in the development of the technology, and many control participants also had scans. The trials were also underpowered to show an effect on other important maternal or fetal outcomes.

Twitter Demographics

The data shown below were collected from the profiles of 18 tweeters who shared this research output. Click here to find out more about how the information was compiled.

Mendeley readers

The data shown below were compiled from readership statistics for 33 Mendeley readers of this research output. Click here to see the associated Mendeley record.

Geographical breakdown

Country Count As %
Unknown 33 100%

Demographic breakdown

Readers by professional status Count As %
Student > Master 5 15%
Professor > Associate Professor 5 15%
Lecturer 1 3%
Researcher 1 3%
Student > Bachelor 1 3%
Other 1 3%
Unknown 19 58%
Readers by discipline Count As %
Unspecified 4 12%
Nursing and Health Professions 4 12%
Medicine and Dentistry 3 9%
Neuroscience 1 3%
Economics, Econometrics and Finance 1 3%
Other 0 0%
Unknown 20 61%

Attention Score in Context

This research output has an Altmetric Attention Score of 18. This is our high-level measure of the quality and quantity of online attention that it has received. This Attention Score, as well as the ranking and number of research outputs shown below, was calculated when the research output was last mentioned on 30 October 2021.
All research outputs
of 19,519,615 outputs
Outputs from Cochrane database of systematic reviews
of 11,948 outputs
Outputs of similar age
of 334,600 outputs
Outputs of similar age from Cochrane database of systematic reviews
of 25 outputs
Altmetric has tracked 19,519,615 research outputs across all sources so far. Compared to these this one has done particularly well and is in the 92nd percentile: it's in the top 10% of all research outputs ever tracked by Altmetric.
So far Altmetric has tracked 11,948 research outputs from this source. They typically receive a lot more attention than average, with a mean Attention Score of 27.5. This one has gotten more attention than average, scoring higher than 70% of its peers.
Older research outputs will score higher simply because they've had more time to accumulate mentions. To account for age we can compare this Altmetric Attention Score to the 334,600 tracked outputs that were published within six weeks on either side of this one in any source. This one has done well, scoring higher than 89% of its contemporaries.
We're also able to compare this research output to 25 others from the same source and published within six weeks on either side of this one. This one is in the 44th percentile – i.e., 44% of its contemporaries scored the same or lower than it.