Terrible ultrasound experience

happyduck1979 writes:

The following is a letter of complaint I am sending to the branch manager of the local health office. Some words are transliterated from the Hebrew, but the gist of the letter should be clear.
December 20th 2010

To whom it may concern,

This is a short summary of a horrible experience I had at the — on — in —, culminating in one of the most painful and humiliating exams I have ever experienced. Although the first part of the complaint is mostly focused on some of the support staff who not once, but 3 times managed to book the incorrect appointment and, as well as the lack of local adequate medical staff over holidays, the primary complaint lies against Dr. — and the exam that took place on December 14th 2010.

As an overweight pregnant woman with gestational diabetes and a history of pre-term labour, I understand that my needs are more complicated than those of a comparative non-high risk maternity patient. I am currently seeing Dr. D, as well as dietitian L (both of whom, together with the nursing staff, I have found to be a pleasure to deal with, competent, and understanding), and together with them am doing everything possible to maintain a healthy pregnancy. To that end I am currently 22 weeks pregnant and losing 0.5-1kg most weeks even though the baby is growing and developing normally. My glucose numbers are well tracked and both my doctor and the dietitian are pleased with my results.

As a diabetic maternity patient there are certain exams that are standard procedure that takes place at certain points in the pregnancy. One such example is the fetal heart echo. When I was told I needed to have the echo done, I called the office, made an appointment at the Chativat Harel branch of Maccabi, and the exam was completed simply and with minimal complications and my dignity intact.

Unfortunately when it came to booking and completing the 20 week organ scan this was not the case. […]

I arrived for my appointment on December 14th to discover that only a 5 minute slot had been booked for what I was told would be a 20-30 minute appointment. Fortunately was seen on time and was told that there were 2 different types of organ scans- the normal one, and a separate one that was 200 shekel out of pocket. As I did not know about this in advance I decided to do the normal one, and if it is not what my doctor wanted I would return.

Dr. — than began to explain that the scan was not 100% accurate “especially in cases like mine”. Before he even began the exam he had decided that there would be problems and that obviously I would be more difficult but, he would see what he could do but would likely need to send me somewhere else.” Please know that I have had ultrasounds on this machine before, and had the heart echo 2 days earlier on a machine designed for infants with no pain or humiliation.

Within the first few minutes of the exam it became apparent that Dr. — was not interested in completing the exam properly. Although I continuously tried to tell him that every single ultrasound I have had indicated that the baby is sitting incredibly low, and that no less than 3 ultrasound technicians had suggested that I would be much better served to have the scan done flat on my back rather than in a semi-prone position, he continued to ignore me. He called out numbers to the assistant on the computer, and would not explain what he was seeing, nor would he translate anything we managed to hear. although I repeated asked him to speak louder as I could barely hear him, he ignored me entirely other than to tell me how difficult the exam was. He seemed to be actually pushing it under my pelvic bone with such pressure that he actually stretch and split the skin so that a week later it is still cut, irritated and painful.

After no more than 5-6 minutes he decided to switch to an internal ultrasound. I am no stranger to the procedure and understand that at times it is the better choice, however I have never had an internal ultrasound hurt or feel so violating in my life. He kept ordering me to move down further onto the transducer so that it was so far inset that it was incredibly painful. He was incredibly harsh with it for another 2-3 minutes before informing me that he gave up and it could not be done. At this point, no more than 10 minutes into my appointment time, the assistant left. He told me he could not complete the scan and I should go somewhere else where they had better equipment.

It was only at this point that I got angry. I raised my voice and again informed him that there were other ways to try to do the scan. He kept refusing to attempt it flat on my back saying “it would not make a difference. It was only when I said I was going to file a complaint that he agreed to even take the 2 minutes to try it, and even then it was with the attitude that he was only doing it to show me that it would not work.

Fortunately for me the change of position did make a large difference and he was able to complete the scan in a matter of minutes (while still causing a lot of pain by pushing much to hard on the transducer). I have no idea if he got everything he needed or not as he refused to answer questions. It was only as we were leaving he thrust a waiver of some sort at me, refused to explain anything more about it than that it said the scan might not be accurate (so then what’s the point? Is this a normal waiver or just one reserved for difficult patients?) and handed me the results while once again telling me how hard the exam was.

I will know later on this week what the results said and if they are complete as he refused to explain or elaborate on anything.

For the next 36 hours I was in incredible amounts of pain in my hips, my lower abdomen, and the skin where it had been stretched. The pain has tapered since then, but almost a week later is still lingering. Internally I felt as if I had been abused and was raw and sore for roughly 72 hours. Neither of those are standard for either internal or external ultrasounds.

I should add that based on an ultrasound from a week earlier the baby seems to have gotten smaller! After doing some research in the last week and speaking to other ultrasound technicians I have learned that this is often the case when someone conducts the exam using too much force leading to distorted images.


I am very disturbed by the treatment I received by Dr. — . His lack of care and attention to details, and horrific bedside manner on a standard and routine exam must be addressed and some skill upgrades needs to be provided. No patient should ever leave an exam feeling violated by her doctor, nor feeling as if the doctor was disgusted at having to do the exam in the first place. The fact that I am still in pain, and have torn and stretched skin a week later is entirely unacceptable.

I sincerely hope that Maccabi is open to improving both their staff as needed and the administrative issues I have addressed.

Leave a comment


  1. Katie

     /  December 28, 2010

    wow, I am so sorry this happened to you 😦 That doctor was completely out of line and I’m glad you’re submitting this letter of complaint.

    Honestly, I would be tempted to take photos of my wounds, document all my symptoms on a day-by-day basis, perhaps get a follow-up exam by a doctor I trust to write up the extent of the physical damage, and pursue assault charges on that doctor. But I’m in the US, and I have no idea what the laws are where you are.

    I wish you the best with the rest of your pregnancy…

  2. hd1979

     /  December 28, 2010

    Thanks. Here I have never heard of anyone doing something like that and having it get anywhere. My own ob/gyn did see the results and was horrified by it- she agreed that he was way out of line and noted both the outcome and the details- so there is an official record as well.

  3. I also wanted to add that I am very sorry that you were forced to endure such a humiliating exam. I am also pregnant and fat (BMI of about 40) and I have never had any tech or doctor have any issues getting a proper u/s. It sounds like this doctor wasn’t interested in doing his job at all. This sounds like malpractice to me, not to mention, assault, especially since he used a transvaginal wand.

  4. jenincanada

     /  December 28, 2010

    I hope your extremely well-written and too the point letter creates positive change in the immediate future! I’m so sorry that you had to go through that. I hope that the rest of your pregnancy, labour and delivery, go wonderfully.

  5. I’m sorry this was such a difficult experience for you! I hope you complain long and loud. I second the idea for taking pictures and documenting the damage to your skin, which should help in your complaint.

    It’s true that getting very clear images are more difficult in women of size and that sometimes a little extra pressure can help, but sometimes u/s techs/docs are overzealous and push FAR too hard when doing an ultrasound in a woman of size. This can indeed lead to distortions in the findings.

    I’ve discussed this issue on my blog:


    Some things that can be done to improve image quality if there’s a problem include lifting the belly, using a transvaginal probe in the belly-button area (research shows this improves image quality significantly, especially for fetal heart structures), or changing position in the mother (for you it was lying flat, for some women lying on their side helps).

    No one should have to endure such pressure and pain in order to do an ultrasound, especially since over-pressure can distort the findings.

    Considering that you had previous ultrasounds without similar problems earlier in the pregnancy, obviously the problem here is the person performing the u/s rather than your size. I hope you complain and make yourself heard so this person can get the training they need to improve their care of other women of size.

    Good for you for documenting the experience!

  6. hd1979

     /  December 29, 2010

    Thank you.

    Well Rounded Mama, I am actually a regular reader of yours and took information I learned from your site in helping me make my complaint more complete. I included the link to it and translated a few small sections for the attached supporting documentation I sent with this letter. I have found myself repeatedly looking to your site for information and guidance. Thankfully, I have a wonderful ob/gyn and a great nutritionist who I am working with who, other than being slightly alarmed at the amount of weight I have LOST this pregnancy, and telling me what complications I *might* be at a slightly higher risk for have been excellent, accepting and helpful. I was TERRIFIED to go see the high risk ob/gyn when my orriginal glucose numbers came back that I would be shamed and ridiculed- to the point where it took me almost a month to even make the appointment (and I know I should have done it sooner) but in actual fact she has been wonderful and supportive and caring.

    I just worry what will happen when I end up in the hospital at the end of all this as the way the system works here she is never likely to be there. For various real reasons I am most likely looking at a c-section, and I am terrified how that will go. IF you see my earlier post to this site lets just say that I think my current doctor is the exception rather than the norm as far as fat-friendly health practitioners are concerned in hospitals.

  7. kat

     /  June 14, 2011

    Hi i am sorry to hear of this awful abuse, i myself had an ultrasound at 20 weeks in a NHS hospital in the UK, it was preformed by a technician in southend, she firstly said my bladder wasn’t full enough and made me go away for half hour to drink 2 liters of water, which i found a little extreme?

    When i went back she started to scan me but for no reason at all she then pushed so hard i yelled out in pain which she didn’t even respond to, not even a sorry or anything! i believe it was done to purposely to hurt me and my baby, i was left in very bad pain for days after her awful manhandling.

    I think its appalling that these people get to abuse there position, I’m not over weight nor was i then, being just 8 stone 3 pounds! nor was i difficult or complaining.

    Even my midwife was horrible, every time i went to her office she talked about herself and how she hated her job!! she didn’t bother answer my questions, forced me to come to my home for visits, all which were against my will!! then after all that she had the nerve not to to show up to the birth and i gave birth on my own at home with the cord stuck round my baby’s neck! she pretended she was on-call with another lady, however my partner see her sitting in her car at least half hour before she bothered to come rushing to my door on the screams of my new born baby’s cries!

    So i wish you the best of luck and i wish i had complained like you did, it will save more mothers from being treated so harshly, thank you for sharing this with others in the same situation.

  8. Marisela

     /  June 24, 2011

    I went through something similar. I wasn’t hurt as bad but experienced lots of pain through all of my ultrasound. The Tech would hear me moan and groan but kept diging in. It was horrible. I did need more than one ultrasound since at one point I had low amniotic fluid. They had 2 Techs at that office and my experience with the other lady was wonderful no pain. I’m a little sad because when it should be the happiest time of my life being pregnant for the second time I know I might go through that again. I’m not sure if I should switch Doctors. I have my first appt. on Monday.

  9. J. H.

     /  November 8, 2012

    My daughter and I had a bad experience with an ultrasound tech as well. Two technicians in her home state found a mass on the right lobe of here thyroid and the doctor agreed it needed to be biopsied and most likely her thyroid will have to be removed due to the indications of papillary carcinoma.
    Because she couldnt get a local endocrinologist to see her (2-3 months wait) The Cancer Treatment Centers Of America flew us to their center out of state and we were so happy to be seen so soon. (Within a few days.)
    It’s already bad enough when cancer freaks you out and you have to leave three children at home to take care of your health. When it came time for an ultrasound, the tech called her in and laid her on the table. Then, proceeded to take a phone call on her cell. the call was about another patient and the tech mentioned the patients name and a complete history. After that 10 min call, she used one hand for the ultrasound wand and the other hand promptly answered another cell phone call that came in. Not only did she get on the phone again but she kept looking at the clock talking about when she’d be leaving there. Not long after that call, her cell phone rang again and she was on the phone once more. Then, after a 10 to 15 min test (Previous ones were detailed and 45 mins long) she told my daughter she was going to talk to the doctor because she saw absolutely nothing. Not one mass.
    Excuse me?
    We left. My daughter was so upset and nervous we canceled the rest of her appts that day. We called her original imaging center in her home town and the gal at the desk said this tech was in violation. It is against hospital policy to discuss other patients in front of a current one. It’s called a hipaa violation.
    We dont trust her or the test she did. The original doctor will be calling this current hospital to tell the radiology dept. WHERE the mass is so they can find it since these guys are incompetent and made the experience even worse.
    1) Always make sure the tech is paying 100% attention to you and not on the phone which yes, is a hipaa violation.
    2) Make sure you are 100% satisfied with your answers before going home or moving on with your life.
    3) In a similar case, have the two techs (whether their from different cities or not, (doesnt matter) get on the phone and work with each other.

    We now have to take care of an additional problem on top of everything else because of this techs lack of care.

  10. i know this is an old post, but I also had a bad experience with an ultrasound. I was over weight having had morning sickness the whole way through pregnancy and the only relief I had was eating. I’m also pretty sure I was anemic, which causes me to feel sick and eat quite a bit. I put on a lot of weight and was ashamed of it. But when I went for that ultrasound I came out feeling humiliated and disgusting. The women put a big UP arrow next to the BMI and pressed down so hard it hurt so badly. I’d never had an ultrasound like that before and I had many ultrasounds throughout my first and 2nd pregnancy. This time she pushed so hard she touched the baby’s head and the baby moved and I jumped. She told me nothing about what was going on, she kept turning the screen away. She was mean. It was a horrible experience and a shame that my husband got a first glimpse of his son in conditions like that.


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