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Are Ct Scans Safe During Pregnancy?

The amount of radiation used in normal CT imaging has never been shown to cause harm to an unborn child. However, if the CT scan examines the abdomen or pelvis area, then there may be a very slight risk to the baby. An unborn baby exposed to CT during pregnancy may have about a one in 1,000 greater chance of developing a cancer as a child. The level of risk is not proven though, and may be nonexistent. The radiologist (a doctor with expertise in medical imaging) and the CT technologist will adjust the CT exam techniques to lower the radiation dose to your baby if they know you are pregnant 🙈 [1]
Be sure that the medical radiation procedure is necessary and that the benefit outweighs the risk to both you and the fetus. You have a right to know the estimated radiation dose and potential effects that might result from in-utero exposure. Communication between you and the radiology team is based on the level of risk. The radiology team will routinely consider techniques and procedures that reduce the radiation dose while still obtaining the required information. When the fetus is directly exposed during a procedure and the dose is greater than 1 mSv, then a patient specific fetal dose calculation by a qualified medical physicist may be provided to the patient’s obstetrician. [2]
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Appliedradiology.com goes on to describe how pregnant patients may experience nonobstetrical emergencies over the course of their pregnancy, including appendicitis, renal colic, ovarian torsion, hemorrhagic ovarian cysts, trauma, and pulmonary embolism. The utilization of computed tomography (CT) in the diagnosis of diseases such as these has increased in recent years, and the same trend is observed in pregnant women.1 Ionizing radiation is a carcinogen and the increased utilization of CT has been cited as a potential cause for an increase in the prevalence of cancer in developed countries.2-4 When CT is performed in pregnancy, there is also concern about the teratogenic and carcinogenic effects of ionizing radiation to the developing fetus. In this review article, we will discuss the role of CT in diagnosing nonobstetrical emergency conditions in pregnancy and the risks and benefits to the mother and fetus. For simplicity, we will refer to the conceptus as the fetus. More precisely, the fetus refers to the conceptus after 13 weeks gestational age and the embryo refers to the conceptus before 13 weeks gestational age. (modified by Victoria Taylor from Milan, Italy on January 3, 2020) [3]
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As reported by the pros at parenting.firstcry.com, a CT scan or a CAT scan is the common name for an imaging technique called Computed Axial Tomography scan. It is a procedure that uses a computer to combine several X-ray images to generate a cross-sectional, three-dimensional image of the internal organs of the body. Many women worry about getting a CT scan during pregnancy and the side effects it could pose. If you’re an expectant mother who also has these queries, your questions will be answered in this post. Beyond that, your doctor would be able to explain to you the risks and benefits of a CT scan, if you ever need to have one during your pregnancy. [4]
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Answer posted on 4 April 2016. The information posted on this web page is intended as general reference information only. Specific facts and circumstances may affect the applicability of concepts, materials, and information described herein. The information provided is not a substitute for professional advice and should not be relied upon in the absence of such professional advice. To the best of our knowledge, answers are correct at the time they are posted. Be advised that over time, requirements could change, new data could be made available, and Internet links could change, affecting the correctness of the answers. Answers are the professional opinions of the expert responding to each question; they do not necessarily represent the position of the Health Physics Society. (last emended 71 days ago by Stephanos Connolly from Busto Arsizio, Italy) [5]
Based on an article from insideradiology.com.au, x-rays have more energy than visible light and can therefore penetrate much deeper into and through objects. An X-ray beam is absorbed differently by different structures in the body. A dense structure, such as bone, absorbs a high percentage of the X-ray beam; whereas low-density structures, such as soft tissue, absorb a small amount. Metal objects in the body (such as a swallowed coin, a bullet or a surgical plate used to fix a fracture) will usually appear as white. Air in the lungs will be black, because it absorbs so little radiation. These differences in X-ray absorption can be used to create a picture of the different structures, organs or tissues in the body that allow a radiologist (specialist doctor) to diagnose and treat disease. (last modified 86 days ago by Chantal Muhammad from Cordoba, Argentina) [6]
ABSTRACT: Imaging studies are important adjuncts in the diagnostic evaluation of acute and chronic conditions. However, confusion about the safety of these modalities for pregnant and lactating women and their infants often results in unnecessary avoidance of useful diagnostic tests or the unnecessary interruption of breastfeeding. Ultrasonography and magnetic resonance imaging are not associated with risk and are the imaging techniques of choice for the pregnant patient, but they should be used prudently and only when use is expected to answer a relevant clinical question or otherwise provide medical benefit to the patient. With few exceptions, radiation exposure through radiography, computed tomography scan, or nuclear medicine imaging techniques is at a dose much lower than the exposure associated with fetal harm. If these techniques are necessary in addition to ultrasonography or magnetic resonance imaging or are more readily available for the diagnosis in question, they should not be withheld from a pregnant patient. Breastfeeding should not be interrupted after gadolinium administration. (last revised 42 days ago by Margot McLeod from Rotterdam, Netherlands) [7]

Article References

  1. https://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info/safety-ct-pregnancy
  2. https://www.beaumont.org/services/radiology/radiation-safety/radiation-faq/pregnancy-and-fetal-radiation-faq
  3. https://www.appliedradiology.com/articles/ct-in-pregnancy-risks-and-benefits
  4. https://parenting.firstcry.com/articles/ct-scan-in-pregnancy-is-it-risky/
  5. https://hps.org/publicinformation/ate/q11549.html
  6. https://www.insideradiology.com.au/radiation-risk-preg/
  7. https://www.acog.org/clinical/clinical-guidance/committee-opinion/articles/2017/10/guidelines-for-diagnostic-imaging-during-pregnancy-and-lactation
Kelly-Anne Kidston

Written by Kelly-Anne Kidston

I am a writer of many words, from fiction to poetry to reviews. I am an avid reader and a lover of good books. I am currently writing my first novel and would love to find some beta readers who are interested in getting an early look.

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