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Fetal echogenic bowel: Is there a national consensus on identification and reporting?

INTRODUCTION: Saving Babies' Lives Care Bundle Version 2 highlights the importance of correct identification and reporting of echogenic bowel to improve maternal and newborn outcomes. Yet there is no national consensus to guide sonographers in identifying and reporting fetal echogenic bowel. This two-phase study aims to develop a national consensus to guide sonographers on the identification, classification and reporting of fetal echogenic bowel during the Fetal Anomaly Screening Programme (FASP) second trimester anomaly scan. Phase 1 results are presented capturing the national current practice of sonographers in its identification.

METHODS: An online questionnaire survey was deployed to capture numerical and free text data. Data analysis was by descriptive statistics. Participants were recruited via social media and through professional networks and organisations.

RESULTS: A total of 95 participants completed the questionnaire during an 11-week period. Common practice across England included sonographers using a subjective method for identifying fetal echogenic bowel and making comparisons to fetal bone. However, there was wide variance in the fetal bone used and the transducer frequency typically used to assess bowel echogenicity. Confirmation of echogenic bowel was made at the 20-week scan in 58% of cases, 32% following fetal medicine department review with the remaining 10% unsure when confirmation occurred.

CONCLUSION: While there is common practice in identifying and report echogenic fetal bowel in some areas, there remains disparity within sonographer practice in England's national screening service. This study allowed baseline data to be collated, providing the first steps towards development of guidance for sonographers in identifying and reporting this appearance.

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