CT Scans on Pregnant Women
Reported March 19, 2009
(Ivanhoe Newswire) — Although they are potentially hazardous to a developing fetus, the use of CT scans on pregnant women has more than doubled in the last ten years.
Used to capture internal images, radiologic imaging like nuclear medicine, CT, fluoroscopy and plain-film x-ray can help doctors diagnose potentially life-threatening conditions in pregnant women. However, the radiation produced by some of these imaging machines could put a child in-utero at risk.
Looking back at data collected at Rhode Island Hospital in Providence from 1997 to 2006, researchers from Brown University found the total number of imaging studies performed on pregnant women increased by 10.1 percent each year. Use of CT exams — delivering the highest amount of radiation of the scans in the study — increased by 25.3 percent each year.
“Women should know that imaging is generally safe during pregnancy and is often used to detect potentially life-threatening problems,” Elizabeth Lazarus, M.D., assistant professor of diagnostic imaging at the Warren Alpert School of Medicine at Brown Univeristy, was quoted as saying. “However, this study should raise awareness about imaging trends in pregnant patients and help us continue in our efforts to minimize radiation exposure.”
About 75 percent of CT exams found in the study were performed on areas of the body away from the uterus, not exposing the fetus to direct radiation. However, even low levels of radiation have been shown to carry a small risk to a developing fetus.
Study authors say doctors could opt for imaging techniques with lower radiation outputs in pregnant women who need repeated scans. They go on to say the increasing use of electronic medical records could help doctors and patients keep track of the number and type of imaging tests performed on pregnant women.
SOURCE: Radiology, 2009