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4D ultrasound

A new dimension in pregnancy diagnostics

Woman holding anatomical drawing

What is 4D ultrasound?

With the help of an ultrasound examination (sonography), the sex, size and position of the foetus in the womb can be determined gently and reliably. Multiple pregnancies and developmental disorders can also be detected at an early stage. In contrast to the standard 2D procedure, 3D ultrasound already allows a detailed spatial representation of the foetus.

With high-resolution 4D ultrasound - also called live 3D ultrasound - another dimension is added: time. What does this mean? While 3D ultrasound only produces an image, i.e. a snapshot, 4D ultrasound makes it possible to follow the movement of the unborn child in three dimensions and in real-time. In addition, the high resolution enables a better evaluation of the images.

A better image thanks to 4D ultrasound

The 4D ultrasound gives the parents-to-be a vivid image of the new family member in the womb. The gestures and facial expressions of the unborn child can be experienced live. A 4D ultrasound can provide impressive results as early as the 12th to 16th week of pregnancy (SSW). Images taken between the 29th and 32nd week of pregnancy are particularly moving, as the little person-to-be can now really be seen sucking their thumb or playing with the umbilical cord.

- Dr. med. Kristina Bockmeyer, Expert in Ultrasound and prenatal diagnostics -

The calming effect of a 4D ultrasound should not be underestimated. Especially in high-risk pregnancies, the parents-to-be can see with their own eyes how their child is developing.

Medical benefits: What else are 4D ultrasound devices used for?

State-of-the-art 4D-capable ultrasound scanners have a very high resolution and a significantly increased image quality. They are particularly well suited for the medical assessment of foetal development in the womb (prenatal diagnostics), either during early pregnancy (early pregnancy diagnostics) or in the context of a high-risk pregnancy, e.g.:

  • After fertility treatment, such as IVF, ICSI or IUI

  • If the expectant parents have a fear of malformation

  • If there is a high risk of malformation

  • If there is a risk of a multiple pregnancy

  • If the mother-to-be is at risk due to her age (from 35 years)

  • After taking potentially foetus-damaging medication

A 4D-capable ultrasound scanner can also be used for fertility diagnostics, i.e. for clarifying an unfulfilled wish to have a child.

The advantages of a 4D-capable ultrasound scanner include:

  • Improved nuchal translucency measurement and assessment of the child's nasal bone in the 12th or 13th week of gestation

    It doesn't always have to be in 4D. A two-dimensional image is completely sufficient for the assessment of the child's development. However, the high-resolution 2D images provided by a modern 4D-capable ultrasound scanner make it easier to determine the nuchal translucency. In addition, indications of structural malformations as well as possible chromosomal and developmental disorders can be better detected [1]. Even small structures, such as the fetal nasal bone, can be depicted in detail, which increases the informative value of the ultrasound [2].

  • Improved organ diagnostics in the 20th and 22nd week of pregnancy

    In the "colour Doppler", the blood flow in the vessels of mother and child can be displayed in two colours. This makes it possible to assess the oxygen supply as well as the child's brain or heart development.

    The excellent image quality and the possibility of a live image also improve the ultrasound examination of the child's heart, to exclude congenital heart defects (fetal echocardiography) [3].


  1. Merz E et al. Ultrasound Med 2012; 33: 593-596.

  2. Von Kaisenberg C et al. Ultrasound Med 2016; 37: 297-302.

  3. Chaoui R et al. Ultrasound Med 2008; 29: 197-200.

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