11-13 week scan
FMF Certificate of competence in the measurement of nuchal translucency
Nuchal translucency (NT) is the sonographic appearance of a collection of fluid under the skin behind the fetal neck in the first-trimester of pregnancy. The term translucency is used, irrespective of whether it is septated or not and whether it is confined to the neck or envelopes the whole fetus. In fetuses with chromosomal abnormalities, cardiac defects and many genetic syndromes the NT thickness is increased.
The FMF has set up a process for certification in the measurement of fetal NT to ensure that those performing this ultrasound examination have been adequately trained to do so and that high standards of performance are maintained by continuous education and audit.
Once the FMF Certificate of competence in the measurement of NT has been obtained, the doctor/sonographer will be entitled to receive free of charge the FMF software for the calculation of risk of chromosomal abnormalities by a combination of maternal age, fetal NT and first-trimester maternal serum free β-hCG and PAPP-A. The only condition for ongoing certification and use of the software is provision of NT data and images by the sonographer for the purposes of audit.
Requirements for Certification in the measurement of nuchal translucency
The requirements for certification are:
1. Attendance of the internet based course on the 11-13 weeks scan. This course is intended for all medical personnel involved in antenatal care and is not confined to those performing the 11-13 weeks scan.
2. Submission of a logbook of 3 images demonstrating the measurement of NT.
Protocol for measurement of nuchal translucency
- The gestational period must be 11 to 13 weeks and six days.
- The fetal crown-rump length should be between 45 and 84mm.
- The magnification of the image should be such that the fetal head and thorax occupy the whole screen.
- A mid-sagittal view of the face should be obtained. This is defined by the presence of the echogenic tip of the nose and rectangular shape of the palate anteriorly, the translucent diencephalon in the centre and the nuchal membrane posteriorly. Minor deviations from the exact midline plane would cause non-visualization of the tip of the nose and visibility of the zygomatic process of the maxilla.
- The fetus should be in a neutral position, with the head in line with the spine. When the fetal neck is hyperextended the measurement can be falsely increased and when the neck is flexed, the measurement can be falsely decreased.
- Care must be taken to distinguish between fetal skin and amnion.
- The widest part of translucency must always be measured.
- Measurements should be taken with the inner border of the horizontal line of the callipers placed ON the line that defines the nuchal translucency thickness - the crossbar of the calliper should be such that it is hardly visible as it merges with the white line of the border, not in the nuchal fluid.
- In magnifying the image (pre or post freeze zoom) it is important to turn the gain down. This avoids the mistake of placing the calliper on the fuzzy edge of the line which causes an underestimate of the nuchal measurement.
- During the scan more than one measurement must be taken and the maximum one that meets all the above criteria should be recorded in the database.
- A new approach for the measurement of NT which improves the accuracy of measurements, is with the use of a semi-automated technique. The operator places a box in the nuchal area and the machine automatically selects the best measurement, which uses an algorithm that draws a line through the centre of the nuchal membrane and another line at the edge of the soft tissue overlying the cervical spine. The measurement obtained by this method is similar to that obtained manually and it is therefore applicable to the software of the Fetal Medicine Foundation.
- The umbilical cord may be round the fetal neck in about 5% of cases and this finding may produce a falsely increased NT. In such cases, the measurements of NT above and below the cord are different and, in the calculation of risk, it is more appropriate to use the average of the two measurements
Quality review and ongoing Certification in nuchal translucency
- Each sonographer must submit NT data and 3 images for audit 12 months after obtaining the FMF Certificate of competence in NT and the FMF software for the calculation of risks. In addition to the FMF audit, all sonographers are encouraged to perform their own internal quality assurance on a monthly basis by examining their NT distribution using the automated audit module incorporated within the FMF risk calculation software.
- The audit involves assessment of the distribution of NT measurements of each sonographer and examination of their images. Sonographers passing their audit will be re-audited and re-licensed on an annual basis thereafter. The NT distribution cannot be assessed if fewer than 30 scans have been performed, but in this situation an individual can still pass their audit if their images are satisfactory.
- If the NT distribution falls outside the satisfactory range advice will be given on how to improve the NT technique, based on the review of images. The name of the sonographer will be removed from the FMF website list of holders of the Certificate of competence in NT. A new audit will be carried out in 3 months (please see audit policies on your own FMF page) and the sonographer will only be reinstated on the FMF website list once the audit is considered satisfactory. However, if in the new audit the standard of the sonographer has not improved then their FMF software license will be revoked. In such case the sonographer will need to be retrained and apply for recertification by attending the FMF internet based course on the 11-13 weeks scan and submitting the appropriate logbook of images.
Submission of logbook
Please login to upload your images:
Holders of the FMF Certificate in the measurement of nuchal translucency
Many thousands of sonographers have been awarded the FMF Certificate of competence in the measurement of NT. These sonographers have attended the internet based course on the 11-13 weeks scan and have submitted satisfactory images demonstrating their competence in the measurement of fetal NT. To view the list of these sonographers please click here.
Many (but not all) sonographers, in addition to obtaining the certificate of competence in the measurement of NT, have submitted to the FMF their NT measurements and representative images for audit, and were found to be satisfactory. To view the list of these sonographers please click here.
Midsagittal view of the face
Normal nuchal translucency
Increased nuchal translucency