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Imaging Exams Found to Be on Rise in Pregnant Women

Last Updated: April 28, 2009.

Imaging examinations, particularly with computed tomography (CT), may be growing more common in pregnant women, according to research published in the May issue of Radiology.

TUESDAY, April 28 (HealthDay News) -- Imaging examinations, particularly with computed tomography (CT), may be growing more common in pregnant women, according to research published in the May issue of Radiology.

Elizabeth Lazarus, M.D., of Brown University in Providence, R. I., and colleagues analyzed a database containing records of pregnant patients exposed to radiation during imaging over a recent 10-year period. During this time, 5,270 examinations were performed in 3,285 patients. In most cases (roughly 85 percent), the fetus was not within the radiation beam.

The overall utilization rate -- examinations per 1,000 deliveries -- increased by 107 percent between 1997 and 2006, the researchers discovered. An increase in CT examinations was largely responsible for this rise; these increased by 25 percent per year. The study states that the mean estimated fetal radiation exposure for each exam was 0.43 mGy for conventional radiography, 0.40 mGy for nuclear medicine imaging, and 5.3 mGy for CT examinations.

"In conclusion, our study demonstrates that imaging in the pregnant population is increasing in both the number of examinations performed and the number of patients being imaged, with the greatest increase in CT utilization. Knowledge of this increase may raise awareness of the potential of adverse effects of increased imaging in the pregnant patient population and help monitor the inappropriate use of radiologic imaging in the future," the authors write.

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