A neonatal head ultrasound is a test that provides images of an infant’s brain. A neonatal head ultrasound can be performed on a baby until the fontanel, which is the soft spot on the top of the baby’s head, closes. This is one of the best ways to view a baby’s brain in the early stages of life.
Often, neonatal head ultrasounds are used to identify intraventricular hemorrhages, or brain bleeds. These can be serious and life threatening if left untreated. Intraventricular hemorrhages are found most commonly in premature infants, especially under 32 weeks gestational age.
A neonatal head ultrasound is performed by placing the ultrasound probe on the infant’s fontanel, which has been covered with a gel like substance. The probe will be positioned to take multiple images of the baby’s brain. A head ultrasound on an infant may take up to 30 minutes or longer.
Once completed, the ultrasound images are sent to a radiologist to be examined and read. The radiologist then reports their findings to the baby’s physician, who will then relay the ultrasound results to the parents.
A neonatal head ultrasound is very safe, and does not cause the infant any pain or harm. It is a great tool in helping and promoting quality, optimal care for infants who are in the neonatal intensive care unit.
Neonatal Head Ultrasounds and Parents
Neonatal head ultrasounds can often be performed at the infant’s bedside, which is far less stressful on the infant than transporting to a radiology room. Parents may be allowed to stay at the bedside, or they may be asked to wait in the waiting room.
If parents are allowed to stay at the bedside, they will observe a darker, quiet atmosphere that allows the ultrasound technician an optimal setting to work in.
It is important for parents to try and hold questions about the exam until after the ultrasound is finished, as too many questions can distract an ultrasound technician. In addition, less noise reduces the chance to stimulate the baby, which can make completing a head ultrasound difficult.
After the neonatal head ultrasound is finished, the ultrasound tech will then take the images back to the radiologist to be read, who will then share the results with the neonatologist or neonatal nurse practitioner.