How Are 3D Ultrasound Images Created?

The pictures you see during a 3D ultrasound will look very different from those that appear on the screen during your routine scans. You might think that this means that they are created using very different technologies, but the truth is that the differences stem from the way the data is processed rather than in the way the pictures are taken.

3d ultrasound

How Ultrasound Scans Work

Both 2D and 3D ultrasound scans use the same basic technology to create images of your baby and the surrounding womb:

  • The ultrasound probe sends out very high frequency soundwaves as it passes across your abdomen.
  • The soundwaves pass through your skin and into your body.
  • Every time the ultrasound waves meet a new type of material (such as the wall of your womb or the baby’s bones) some of them will be reflected back.
  • The ultrasound probe captures these echoes and sends the data back to the ultrasound machine, where they will be processed to create images in a similar way to bats using sonar to “see”.

How the 3D Ultrasound Picture is Created

If the 3D scan is using very similar ultrasound technology and collecting the same kind of information as a 2D ultrasound, then why do the pictures look so different? Although there are some differences in the 2D and 3D ultrasound machines, the answer really lies in what happens after the data collected by the ultrasound probe is sent to the ultrasound machine:

  • Thousands of 2D images of your baby will be collected by the ultrasound machine in a very short time, each providing a slightly different view at different depths or distances from the ultrasound probe
  • The images will be stitched together in order to create a 3D picture of your baby
  • Since the aim is to create a 3D picture, the scan will focus on your baby’s skin and external features rather than on the internal organs, which means that you will be able to see his or her face

Essentially, a 2D ultrasound picture shows a single slice or cross-section of the baby’s internal organs. The 3D scans instantly takes many of these cross-sections at different depths and angles and joins them together.

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