Our Services : Targeted Ultrasound

Targeted Ultrasound


Ultrasound is a technique that uses sound waves to visualize organs within the human body. A targeted ultrasound is a special ultrasound done around the 20th week of pregnancy. It is used to check the growth and development of the baby, check for birth defects and screen for certain types of genetic conditions.

Who has a targeted ultrasound?

Targeted ultrasound is offered to women who may be at a higher-than-average risk of having a baby with some type of genetic condition, birth defect or complication. Ultrasound is often used in pregnancy because it allows the doctor to gain health information about the baby without any risk to the mother or the baby. Some of the many reasons that a woman may have a targeted ultrasound include:

  • Health problems in the mother (e.g. diabetes, high blood pressure)
  • A family or personal history of a birth defect or genetic condition
  • Mothers over 35 years of age
  • Mothers exposed to chemicals or medications during pregnancy
  • An abnormal blood screen (e.g. First Trimester Screen or Quad Screen)
  • Previous abnormalities seen on ultrasound

When is the targeted ultrasound performed?

Targeted ultrasound is usually performed around the 20th week of the pregnancy.

What happens during a targeted ultrasound?

A woman is brought to a special ultrasound room where she lays down on a bed. Most often a woman can just pull up her shirt to expose her abdomen. A gown is also provided if needed. A special gel is placed on her abdomen. This gel helps the sonographer and doctor see the baby better. The sonographer rubs a special probe, called a transducer, over the woman’s abdomen to capture various images of the baby. All the images are reviewed by a doctor who specializes in prenatal ultrasounds (i.e. perinatologist). The doctor reviews all the information with the patient before she leaves. The patient is also given ultrasound pictures of her baby to take home.

What information can the patient learn about her baby from a targeted ultrasound?

Targeted ultrasound checks the overall growth and development of a baby. It is also used to screen for birth defects and genetic conditions. The sonographer will look at many details of the baby including the face, brain, heart, stomach, spine, kidneys, bladder, bones, hands and feet. A patient may also find out the sex of the baby if she wants.

What kinds of birth defects can a targeted ultrasound detect?

Targeted ultrasound can often detect structural birth defects such as cleft lip, open neural tube defects (spina bifida), major heart defects and hydrocephaly. It may not detect certain types of birth defects. 

What kinds of genetic disorders does a targeted ultrasound detect?

Targeted ultrasound is used as a genetic screen for Down syndrome, trisomy 18 and trisomy 13. The doctor uses ultrasound to identify any birth defects or markers (clues) that are more commonly seen in babies with any of these genetic conditions. It is important to know that ultrasound cannot tell for certain if a baby has one of these genetic conditions.

How accurate is a targeted ultrasound?

Under ideal conditions, an ultrasound can be very accurate. However, like most medical tests, its accuracy is not perfect and is dependent on factors such as the amount of fluid around the baby, the age and size of the baby, or the quality of the ultrasound equipment.

Even the most experienced doctors or sonographers using the best equipment can miss some birth defects. Therefore, although a normal ultrasound is reassuring, it does not guarantee a healthy baby.

When will the patient find out the results of the targeted ultrasound?

The patient will find out the results from the targeted ultrasound on the same day. Occasionally, the doctor may consult with other specialists before giving the final results.

What if the doctor finds a problem?

The doctor and a genetic counselor will meet with the patient right away if a birth defect is identified or if there is any suspicion that the baby has a genetic condition. The patient will be told as much as possible about the concern or condition and what it could mean for the baby's health.
Testing options such as amniocentesis, maternal serum screening or future ultrasounds may be presented to the patient. In some instances the patient may be faced with difficult decisions. The patient will be well informed and have the support and guidance of her health care providers.

Can the patient decide not to have the targeted ultrasound?

Yes. A genetic counselor is available to explain and discuss the risks and benefits of targeted ultrasound with the patient. The patient then can decide whether or not she would like to have this test.

Are there any special preparations or post-procedure precautions for the targeted ultrasound?

No. There are no dietary restrictions, you do not need a full bladder, and there are no post-procedure precautions. This test does not require an overnight stay in the hospital.

Where is the targeted ultrasound performed?

Targeted ultrasounds are performed at The Center for Perinatal Care within Meriter Hospital. Valet parking or parking within Meriter’s parking ramp is available free of charge to our patients.

Does insurance cover the targeted ultrasound?

It is recommended that you check with your insurance company to verify coverage.  


If you have additional questions, please feel free to contact The Center for Perinatal Care at 608-417-6667.