Radiographic imaging of injuries can be carried out safely in pregnant women, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (JAAOS).
The researchers noted that around 5-8% of women sustain traumatic injuries such as fractures and muscle tears during pregnancy. Specialists often recommend radiographs and other imaging studies to help evaluate and manage these injuries, but expectant mothers may be concerned about the impact of radiation exposure on the foetus and feel that diagnostic tests pose a high risk.
However, according to lead study author and orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Jonas L. Matzon the true risk is low, and such concerns should not prevent pregnant women from having indicated diagnostic imaging studies.
“While care should be taken to protect the foetus from exposure, most diagnostic studies are generally safe, and the radiation doses from these studies are well below thresholds considered risky,” Dr. Matzon explained.
The study found that ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are not associated with known foetal effects and are considered safe for pregnant patients. In contrast, computed tomography (CT) of the pelvis results in higher doses of radiation to the foetus, and therefore greater consideration must be taken.
The researchers also said that the likelihood of a harmful effect is proportional to the radiation dose and the gestational age of the embryo or foetus at the time of exposure.
A single X-ray exposes the foetus to minimal doses of radiation and does not cause harm, according to the study.
“If a patient requires multiple scans and repeated doses of radiation, a consultation with a qualified medical physicist should be considered to determine estimated foetal dose,” Dr. Matzon advised.