Could the Ultrasound be Wrong?

Jane Foley's picture


Dear Ms Ultrasound,
Hello. I am dreadfully worried. 2 weeks ago today, I was sent in by my doctor for an ultrasound to determine heartbeat of my baby. I was about 11 weeks pregnant and the previous evening my doctor couldn't pick up the baby's heartbeat on the hand held ultrasound in his office.

In the ultrasound room at the hospital, the specialist performed the invasive probe ultrasound and had the another doctor come in to read it. Basically, as the specialist was about to perform the ultrasound, he accidentally reset the machine and had to plug all my information in again. This was while the probe was inserted into me.

When they reviewed the ultrasound, the doctor told me that the baby was not viable and much smaller then what it should be for my pregnancy. He said that he saw no signs of life from the baby.

I was in shock but the following Monday, I was brought in for a D&C. Just before the D&C I asked my OB/GYN (who was performing it) if there could have been a mistake since the machine was reset (so maybe it wasn't set up properly for the proper reading). He said he didn't think so, and that he would cancel the D&C and do blood tests over several weeks to confirm, but in his opinion the d&c should continue. I was weakened and went ahead with it.

I asked him again in the follow up visit, but he said that the ultrasound diagnosis was FIRM. But it still bothers me for some reason. Is there some chance that there could have been a mistake and that the ultrasound was misread?

It didn't help that the ultrasound specialist at the hospital told me that he was new there. Please advise if you can as it's haunting me.



Hi Teresa,
I am so sorry about your loss. I hope I can stop the games the mind is playing with you, like it does with many women who have a miscarriage.

Most importantly -- it takes about 30 seconds for an ultrasound technician to know if a pregnancy is viable or not. Whether the machine was unplugged or not the information is very immediate. When I look at a pregnancy, the first thing I look for is the heart. It is either beating or its not. It's that simple. Even the most inexperienced ultrasound technician can tell immediately.

The reason the technician had to reenter the information was the machine hadn't stored the measurements before it shut off.

One of the things I do when a woman comes in for an ultrasound and finds no heartbeat, is make sure that she knows it is nothing she has done (unless of course she has a problem with some kind of substance abuse ). It is natural to lie in bed at night going over every little thing.

  • "Was it that run I took last week?"
  • "Maybe it was the cold tablet I took before I knew I was pregnant"
  • "Maybe the baby was alive before the machine unplugged"

You know the chatter that goes on our heads. You can put this one to rest forever and know we all play the 'what if' game to no ones advantage. I hope you now feel like you can put all the what if's away, and remember, with joy, that you created a beautiful life, that graced you for a moment in time.

-- Jane, RDMS