Mission & Purpose
Fetal Medicine is a field dedicated to the study of fetal development, congenital abnormalities and disease processes that may pose a threat to the fetus. It evolved tremendously in the past 20 years because of advancements in instrumentation allowing access to the intrauterine environment (ultrasonography, chorionic villus sampling, amniocentesis, cordocentesis, fetoscopy and fetal surgery), developments in genetics, and a better understanding of maternal diseases that affect the pregnancy and fetus.
A great deal of research is conducted in this area and published in peer-reviewed journals. Research results are often conflicting, with a lack of consensus among experts, and a clear plan for the patient may be difficult to discern by the clinician. Alternatively, textbooks are available but become quickly outdated as a result of the ever-evolving research efforts, technology and new procedures.
Our objective is to create an online journal dedicated to imaging in fetal medicine that covers genetics, fetal development, prenatal screening, ultrasonography, fetoscopy, fetal surgery and maternal diseases or conditions that may affect the fetus. TheFetus.net is dedicated to case reports of prenatal diagnoses of rare conditions. The purpose is to provide free educational material to ultrasound practitioners worldwide. The cases presented serve as a study material for website users in order to increase their knowledge of fetal medicine and improve the delivery of patient care. The website is systematically supplied by up-to-date information provided by its supporters. TheFetus.net is supervised by monthly moderators in order to assure the quality of published information, and serves a worldwide audience of ultrasound practitioners, healthcare professionals, parents and students.
The guiding principles will be:
Scientific integrity, so that the information can be trusted.
Usefulness to the patients and those providing their care.
Easy access (no subscription, no fees), so that those who need the information can access it unrestricted.
Openness, so that the information will be able to flow unencumbered by the obstacles of previous media.
TheFetus.net began as a bimonthly publication available to subscribers only, published from 1991 through 1994. It specialized in full-length case reports of rare conditions, so that all interesting and rare cases diagnosed or observed prenatally, that were not usually considered for publication in conventional journals, had all the space, color and illustrations they wanted in TheFetus.net. Case-reports are the poor children of the medical literature and for good reasons: the rarer the case, the less likely the readers will be interested, and Editors are often leery of allotting space. Yet for the practitioner, the rational is just the reverse: perhaps no one wants to read all the rare case reports, however it is very important to have easy access to a thorough review and discussion when confronted with a patient suspected of having such an anomaly. In the current system it is difficult to obtain the original manuscript of an article, and the images obtained from a faxed copy or PDF are rarely of sufficient quality to compare with the images on hand. In 1999, TheFetus.net was published online. The goal was for the accumulation of cases, articles and reviews to build an online reference source.
The advantages of an online version are:
The concentration of articles in one journal, which are now disseminated in hundreds of publications where they have little impact. For instance, the task of recognizing what could be the differential diagnosis of a hypoechoic, but not cystic mass in an 18-week fetal abdomen is difficult in the current system. The online version allows for keyword searches.
Easier access for the reader: the computerized access would allow easy searches, and readers could download the whole article if they wish to keep a copy.
Much cheaper, thus more available for physicians in less privileged countries who suffer from the vagaries of the postal systems.
Access for patients.
Video clips can be included in articles and cases, which is more informative than static images, in particular for cardiac conditions.
Subscribers could be made aware of new cases when posted.
No press or printing deadlines.
Cases can be published and updated much faster than what is currently possible with printed journals after going through peer review.
TheFetus.net covers all aspects of fetal medicine including genetics, fetal development, prenatal screening, ultrasonography, fetoscopy, fetal surgery and maternal diseases or conditions that may affect the fetus. TheFetus.net provides articles with images and videos, as well as twice monthly Case of the Week to challenge users in their knowledge of fetal medicine. Via the discussions, ultrasound practitioners can exchange knowledge and present their cases to request consultation with renowned experts in the field of fetal medicine.
1. Articles: When an article has covered a subject, subsequent authors could either provide improved/updated manuscripts or simply add a quick case presentation and images. For instance, if a case of fetal aortic aneurysm is published, it is unlikely that a subsequent submission on such a rare case will add much to the discussion. Yet knowing the evolution and management of subsequent cases would be very valuable. This information does not find its way into conventional journals. Furthermore, from our discussions with many course participants, it is clear that many practitioners have very interesting cases. While they may not have the inclination to write a whole case report, a short version with images could contribute to the knowledge base.
2. Case of the Week: A Case of the Week will be presented twice a month, which visitors to the website will be invited to solve. Once the answer is revealed, users will have the opportunity to discuss the case.
3. Request consultation: The discussions tab provides a place to ask for advice regarding your difficult cases. This would be equivalent to the corridor consults that happen in the hospital or the phone calls to various colleagues, but with a much wider audience.
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