Congress to be held to promote prenatal screenings for fetal deformities

Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Issue 496, Page 2
Word count: 621
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

A maternal fetal medicine congress is going to be held for the first time in Macau in order to promote the significance of prenatal ultrasound screenings which specialists said was “the most reliable way” to identify fetal deformities at an early stage.

The 4th Asia Pacific Congress in Maternal Fetal Medicine, which is scheduled between October 17 and October 19 at the Macau Tower, is the first of its kind ever being held in the SAR.

This year more than 400 professionals, specialists and experts from the field of obstetric and gynecology in Europe, the USA, Australia, Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong as well as other south eastern countries will participate in the three day event which comprised of workshops, panel discussions, live demonstrations and abstracts presentation.

Dr Wong Keong, the specialist of maternal fetal medicine in Conde de São Januário Central Hospital who is also the chairman of the congress, said yesterday during the press conference that women who were pregnant for three months could receive first ultrasound screenings to identify any physical or mental deficiencies of the embryos with an accuracy rate of 70 percent.

When during week 16 to week 18, mothers could receive second screenings with the accuracy rate being lifted to 90 percent, Dr Wong said, adding if combined with chromosome tests, diagnosis could reach over 99 percent of accuracy which could then “prevent the births of infants with fatal deformities”.

The specialist said according to the law, an embryo which is formed no more than 24 weeks and is identified with fatal abnormities such as spinal cord deformation could be legally aborted under a consensus between the parents and three doctors including the president of the hospital.

However, when the embryo is after 24 weeks which has been developed into a fetus, Dr Wong said a legal abortion could only be permitted by the court.

In Macau, the rate of giving birth to a deformed infant is “less than three thousandths”, Dr Wong said, adding it was usually a “double digit in some neighbouring regions”.

“Macau is one of the six places in the world that registers the lowest rate of birth defects followed Australia, Japan and other developed countries or regions,” he added.

Apart from discussion topics such as premature delivery, fetal Down Syndrome and prenatal mortality, Dr Wong said technology of giving operations to a fetus after being diagnosed with deficiencies would be another focus at the event.

Not only could such surgery help reduce the possibility of severe complications caused by deformities, the specialist said it could make the scar, such as on a fetus with cleft lip, “much less visible” than having a postnatal operation.

On the other hand, Dr Wong told the Macau Daily Times both local and international statistics showed that apart from mothers over the age of 35, young ones could also have the chance of carrying fetus with abnormities.

“Although older mothers are more prone to such possibility, any pregnant women regardless of age are still exposed to birth defects and thus examinations should be received as early as possible during pregnancy,” he added.

The Congress, runs from 8.30am to 6.30pm on the three days starting Friday, is organised by the Maternal Fetal Medicine Unit of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the Association of Obstetrics and Gynecology of Macau, the Fetal Medicine Foundation from the UK and also the Chinese Fetal Medicine Foundation.

The annual event will also include an exhibition in which medical supplies and equipments manufacturers as well as drugs factories will showcase their latest maternal fetal medicine technologies to participants.

The first edition of the Congress was held in Hong Kong in 2005, and then in Guangzhou and Nanjing in the two following years.

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