Prof Sean Daly, former master of the Coombe Women and Infants University in Dublin, said the primary purpose of the foetal anomaly scan was to screen for structural abnormalities. The consultant, who specialises in foetal medicine, was before the Oireachtas Health Committee to discuss medical screening services.
Prof Daly said in Britain pregnant women were screened for structural foetal abnormalities and chromosomal abnormalities. “I think if we were to concentrate on one area, it should be the structural abnormalities. Of course, if money is no object, screening for chromosomal abnormalities should be offered as well to pregnant women”
“But we can’t even offer a structural scan to everybody, and I think that if we are going to focus our attention on priorities, then that should be the priority.”
After that, screening for chromosomal abnormalities should be rolled out. “But if we have over 20,000 women in this country not getting a structural scan, then, I think that that is awful.”
He said one of the most senior cardiologists at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin, Dr Paul Ozlizok, had reckoned that about 50% of major congenital heart disease is unrecognised before birth.
“That puts those babies at significant risk,” he said.
Prof Daly said between 18 and 22 weeks of a pregnancy was the ideal time to screen for structural abnormalities.
Committee chairman Dr Michal Harty said the committee would put pressure on the Government to make funding available for every woman to have a foetal anomaly scan.
“It is absolutely astounding that women are not getting this essential scan,” he said.