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Beyond Tom Cruise—the Bigger Ultrasound Picture


LAUREL, MD - “Patient safety and diagnostic excellence are paramount and are best achieved through education, certification, and accreditation of ultrasound facilities” asserted Lennard Greenbaum, MD, president of the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine (AIUM) in support of the criticism voiced by the medical community regarding Tom Cruise’s purchase of an ultrasound machine for personal use. As the association for medical ultrasound, the AIUM leads in addressing the ultrasound community’s concerns on a closely related issue: the emergence of businesses promoting ultrasound services for entertainment purposes. The AIUM promotes a 3-pronged approach to safety—for both the mother and the unborn child.

Prudent Use
Purchase of an ultrasound machine for private, at home use entails inappropriate operation of a prescription medical device designed for diagnostic use by a trained medical professional. Similarly, businesses are inappropriately offering keepsake fetal ultrasound without medical benefit. The AIUM developed the following Prudent Use statement, which has also been endorsed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), American College of Radiology (ACR), Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM), Society of Radiologists in Ultrasound (SRU), Society for Vascular Ultrasound (SVU), and American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS):

The AIUM advocates the responsible use of diagnostic ultrasound. The AIUM strongly discourages the nonmedical use of ultrasound for psychosocial or entertainment purposes. The use of either two-dimensional (2D) or three-dimensional (3D) ultrasound to only view the fetus, obtain a picture of the fetus, or determine the fetal gender without a medical indication is inappropriate and contrary to responsible medical practice. Although there are no confirmed biological effects on patients caused by exposures from present diagnostic ultrasound instruments, the possibility exists that such biological effects may be identified in the future. Thus ultrasound should be used in a prudent manner to provide medical benefit to the patient.

FDA Enforcement
Since 1994, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been notifying the ultrasound community and manufacturers that the use of diagnostic ultrasound for entertainment purposes constitutes unapproved use of a medical (prescription) device. The AIUM once again calls on the FDA to investigate commercial enterprises offering ultrasound services without medical benefit and the purchase or sale of ultrasound machines for home use.

Certification, Accreditation, and Education
Individual certification and ultrasound practice accreditation are the best ways to tell if a patient will get a good ultrasound examination. The AIUM recommends that ultrasound examinations be performed in accredited practices by licensed physicians, certified/registered sonographers, or sonography registry candidates with training in the appropriate ultrasound specialties. These individuals have been trained to recognize medically important conditions, recognize artifacts that can mimic or obscure pathology, and use techniques to minimize ultrasound exposure.

The AIUM has developed many official statements over its 50-year history to promote patient safety and the responsible use of diagnostic ultrasound. Related AIUM statements include Keepsake Fetal Imaging, Conclusions Regarding Epidemiology for Obstetric Ultrasound, Interpretation of Ultrasound Examinations, and Training Guidelines for Physicians Who Evaluate and Interpret Diagnostic Ultrasound Examinations. The full text of these statements can be found at

For more information and resources on the misuse of ultrasound for entertainment purposes, please visit the AIUM website at To coordinate an interview with an expert in the field, please contact Jennifer Hilderbrand at or call 301-498-4100.

The American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine is a multidisciplinary association dedicated to advancing the safe and effective use of ultrasound in medicine through professional and public education, research, development of guidelines, and accreditation.


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