Private ultrasound arrives in Ancaster

Tests should be for entertainment purposes only, expert warns, as clinic set to open March 1

By Mike Pearson

A veteran radiologist at McMaster Medical Centre said he has no major concerns with a new private ultrasound clinic, as long as clients use the information for entertainment purposes only.

Dubbed entertainment ultrasound, Fetal Expressions is scheduled to open March 1 at Ancaster Meadowlands. The business is a joint venture between Ancaster resident John Rasmussen and Gary Janes of Brantford.

Mr. Janes said clients must sign a waiver that ensures the mother had a proper medical ultrasound by week 24 of the pregnancy. He said the service is not intended as a substitute for medical ultrasound.

“The emphasis is on the aesthetics of the baby,” Mr. Janes said.

John Mernagh, a radiologist at McMaster Medical Centre with 10 years experience, warned entertainment ultrasound should not be a substitute for proper medically supervised testing.

It’s not a medical exam; it’s just baby pictures,” Dr. Mernagh said.

Dr. Mernagh said entertainment ultrasound could be misinterpreted by the client. Parents may see something they think is unusual and request additional medical testing that may be unnecessary, he explained.

Conversely, the technician could miss something during the test, and parents could believe they have a healthy fetus, when in fact there is a problem.

“As long as they make it absolutely clear in no way it’s a medical test, I have no real problem with it,” Dr. Mernagh said.

Dr. Mernagh said demand for ultrasound is high at McMaster, with 14 machines operating near capacity on most days.

Unlike X-ray testing which emits radiation, Dr. Mernagh said there have been no proven health risks associated with exposure to ultrasound because testing involves the use of sound waves.

At Fetal Expressions, parents can choose from two service packages. Families can relax on couches and leather recliners while viewing a scanned image of the unborn child. Babysitting service is available for young children.

The $99 no-frills package includes 15 minutes of scanning time which allows parents to see a moving image of the fetus on a large LCD monitor. Parents can then choose a colour 4×6 photo of their unborn child.

For the ultimate package, parents pay $199 to receive 30 minutes of scanning time, plus a DVD and CD and the ability to e-mail photos of their child.

Private ultrasound clinics are a growing phenomenon in Ontario. Practices are currently running in Oakville, Mississauga and Cambridge.

One per month

Fetal Expressions is Hamilton’s first entertainment ultrasound clinic. The Ontario Association of Radiologists estimates private clinics are currently opening at the rate of one per month in Ontario.

Mr. Janes and Mr. Rasmussen both have backgrounds in medical ultrasound. They plan to split their time working at Fetal Expressions and a publicly-funded medical ultrasound clinic in Brantford.