Nuchal Translucency Scan

When you’re pregnant, there are a lot of scans and tests available to ensure baby is developing properly. One optional scan you may want to undergo is the Nuchal Translucency scan.

Here, you’ll discover everything you need to know about the Nuchal Translucency scan and why it is carried out.

What is a Nuchal Translucency scan?

The Nuchal Translucency scan is an ultrasound scan that is offered to women in their first trimester. It can be carried out between 11 and 13 weeks and its purpose is to identify any potential chromosomal abnormalities, such as Down’s Syndrome.

The ultrasound scan looks to see how much nuchal translucency there is within the foetus. While some nuchal translucency is completely normal, there shouldn’t be excessive levels identified. However, if it is discovered that your baby has excessive levels of nuchal translucency, it doesn’t automatically mean they have a chromosomal abnormality. Instead, it’s used as an indicator of risk, rather than an actual diagnosis.

In order to get a more conclusive prediction, a Nuchal Translucency scan may be combined with a blood test. The blood test looks for both hCG and PAPP-A hormones. These are passed on from the foetus to the mother and if low levels of PAPP-A are identified, it could indicate an increased risk of chromosomal abnormalities in the foetus.

Without having the blood test, the nuchal translucency scan has an accuracy of around 75%. However, with the blood test, the accuracy rate increases to 85%.

Is a Nuchal Translucency safe?

One of the main questions you may have about the test is whether or not it’s safe for baby. The good news the ultrasound scan has no known risk factors for either baby or mother. So, it’s 100% safe to undergo.

However, if there are abnormalities detected and you’re classed as a high risk for chromosomal abnormalities, you may be offered further testing. Some of these additional tests can increase the risk of miscarriage, so it’s important to talk through the risks with your healthcare professional.

What happens during the scan?

You’ll typically be referred by your doctor for a Nuchal Translucency scan. However, you can also book one privately.

It will take approximately half an hour to have the scan done by our scanning experts. Like a standard ultrasound scan, a gel will be placed onto the abdomen, before a transducer device is rolled gently across it. You may notice a little pressure, but the scan shouldn’t be painful.

If we have trouble getting a clear picture through the abdominal ultrasound, then we may offer a vaginal ultrasound instead. This will help them to get a much closer look at baby, along with a clearer image of the nuchal translucency fluid. You’ll receive the results of the scan within two weeks. If the results show an NT measurement of 3.5mm, that’s considered a normal result. An NT measurement lower than 1.3mm is considered low risk, while an NT measurement result of 6 or over is considered a high risk of chromosomal abnormalities.

Overall, a Nuchal Translucency scan can be a great tool for identifying your baby’s risk of developing chromosomal abnormalities. It’s a fast, safe ultrasound scan procedure and when done with a blood test, its accuracy rating is pretty impressive.