Radiological protection for diagnostic examination of pregnant women


2944–9 Megusuno, Notuharu, Oita 870–1201, Japan.


ABSTRACT  Application of diagnostic X-ray examination to pregnant women is complicated since risks to both mother and embryo/fetus must be considered. Embryos and fetuses are more sensitive to radiation than adults or children. The threshold doses for fetal death, malformations and mental retardation which are deterministic effects, are reported to be 100–200 mGy or higher. The relative risk for childhood cancer due to radiation at an absorbed dose of 10 mGy during embryonic/fetal development has been estimated at 1.4. However, the absorbed dose of the embryo/fetus during X-ray diagnostic examination in which the X-ray beam does not irradiate the embryo/fetus directly such as maternal skull and chest X-ray is extremely low, less than 0.01 mGy. Thus these diagnostic procedures are not a problem from the perspective of radiological protection of the embryo/fetus. However, for pelvic CT scan and barium enema in which the uterus is directly within the X-ray beam, the absorbed doses to the embryo/fetus are about 20–80 mGy and 10–20 mGy, respectively. Therefore, medical staff must pay careful attention to the embryo/fetus in application of these examinations. Pregnant women who were not aware of pregnancy at the time of their diagnostic exposure have great anxiety about radiation from such X-ray examinations. However, fetal doses below 100 mGy should not be considered a reason for terminating a pregnancy.