Nuchal Translucency (NT Scan)

The nuchal translucency (NT) scan is an important test performed during pregnancy. It helps medical professionals determine the risk of chromosomal abnormalities in the baby. An NT scan assesses the thickness of fluid behind the baby's neck, which can indicate a chromosomal disorder such as Down syndrome. The scan is non-invasive and painless, making it an ideal tool to assess risk without causing any discomfort or stress to the mother or child. With its accuracy and ease of use, an NT scan offers invaluable peace of mind for expectant parents.

Types of NT Scans

There are three main types of NT scans. The first is the Combined Test, which looks at two markers found in a pregnant woman's blood and a measurement of the NT. The second type is the quadruple test, which looks at four different markers found in the pregnant woman's blood. Finally, there is the non-invasive prenatal test (NIPT), which uses cell-free DNA from the mother’s blood to assess the chances of chromosomal abnormalities like Down syndrome.

When should one see a doctor for NT scans?

It is recommended that pregnant women visit a doctor for an NT scan between 11 and 13 weeks of pregnancy. An ultrasound technician will use a transducer to measure the clear space in the back of the baby’s neck, which allows for the detection of certain chromosomal abnormalities. The results are then reviewed by the doctor, who may order additional tests if necessary. This scan should not be seen as a diagnostic test, but rather as part of a screening process to provide parents with information about their unborn child's health.

Risk factors for NT scans

NT Scan risk factors include advanced maternal age, a family history of genetic disorders, certain medication use during pregnancy, and previous chromosomal abnormalities. Women carrying twins or triplets also have an increased likelihood of having an NT scan. Other elements that can affect the scan results are smoking, drug use, and obesity. It is important to note that these factors do not necessarily mean a baby will have a chromosomal abnormality; they only increase the chances of further testing being needed to confirm the diagnosis.

How should a patient prepare for the NT scan?

It is recommended that you prepare for an NT scan by wearing loose, comfortable clothing and avoiding lotions and creams on your abdomen. It is also advised to drink plenty of fluids before the scan so that a full bladder helps with the scan. It is best to arrive 10 minutes early for the appointment so that any paperwork can be filled out in advance. Make sure you have your referral letter and any relevant medical history available. Additionally, avoid eating or drinking anything sweet for at least two hours before the scan.

Risks and complications associated with NT scanning

NT scanning can carry certain risks and complications. These include discomfort during the procedure, a risk of miscarriage, incorrect results due to inaccurate measurements or faulty equipment, a small chance of infection, and in some cases, a slight risk that the needle used to take amniotic fluid may damage the baby. However, these risks are very rare, and any potential ones should be discussed with your doctor before proceeding.


The NT scan is a useful medical procedure that helps assess the risk of chromosomal abnormalities in a fetus. It is performed during the first trimester of pregnancy and involves measuring the thickness of tissue at the back of the foetus’ neck. The NT scan can provide valuable information to help expectant parents make informed decisions regarding their pregnancy. It can also provide peace of mind that all is well with their unborn child. With this procedure, modern medicine offers an effective way to ensure a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.

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1. How accurate are NT scans at detecting chromosomal abnormalities?

When combined with a blood test, NT scans can detect approximately 80–90% of babies with Down syndrome.

2. Are all pregnant women advised to have an NT scan?

Not all pregnant women are advised to have an NT scan. Some women may be offered one based on their risk factors, such as advanced maternal age or a family history of chromosomal abnormalities.

3. What happens if the results from an NT scan show an increased risk for chromosomal abnormalities?

If the results from an NT scan show an increased risk for chromosomal abnormalities, further testing, such as chorionic villus sampling or amniocentesis, may be recommended to confirm the results.

4. What other tests may be necessary if my baby has an increased NT measurement?

If your baby's NT measurement is increased, your doctor may recommend additional tests, such as blood tests or CVS, to diagnose specific chromosomal conditions.

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