Pregnant women are being exposed to more risky CT scans

accreditation

Use of risky CT scans during pregnancy has risen significantly in North America in the past two decades, a new study finds.

"It's important to quantify exposure to ionising radiation because it can cause cancer and birth defects, and should be kept to a minimum, especially during pregnancy," said co-lead author Marilyn Kwan. She's a senior research scientist at Kaiser Permanente Northern California division of research.

"This study has given us a chance to look more closely at the use of advanced imaging in pregnancy," Kwan added in a Kaiser news release.

While CT scans are quicker, easier and more widely available than MRIs and other advanced imaging, they have a large dose of ionising radiation, many times higher than a chest X-ray, Kwan and her colleagues noted.

For the study, the research team analysed data from six health care systems in the United States and the province of Ontario in Canada. The investigators assessed the use of advanced medical imaging in 2.2 million women who had 3.5 million live births between 1996 and 2016.

Over those 21 years, rates of CT use during pregnancy nearly quadrupled in the United States and they doubled in Ontario. In 2016, CT scans were performed in about 0.8% of US pregnancies and 0.4% of pregnancies in Ontario.

US rates started levelling off in 2007 and have declined since then, but rates continued to rise in Ontario, according to the study published online in JAMA Network Open.

Study co-lead author Diana Miglioretti, a biostatistics professor at the University of California, Davis, pointed out that "most pregnant women get routine ultrasound to monitor foetal growth, which delivers no ionizing radiation."

Radiation doses

But, she added, "Occasionally doctors may want to use advanced imaging to detect or rule out a serious medical condition of the expectant mother, most often pulmonary embolism, brain trauma or aneurysm, or appendicitis."

Other types of advanced medical imaging are radiography, angiography/fluoroscopy and nuclear medicine, all of which involve ionising radiation, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which does not.

Another study is examining radiation doses patients are exposed to during medical imaging and possible links between imaging and the risk of childhood cancer.

Study senior author Dr Rebecca Smith-Bindman said, "Always, but especially if you're pregnant, you should ask whether it is really medically necessary to have any imaging test that involves ionizing radiation." She's a radiology professor at the University of California, San Francisco.

"If advanced imaging is needed, ask your doctor if you can have another imaging test that doesn't involve exposure to ionising radiation, such as MRI or ultrasound," she advised.

The US National Cancer Institute and Ontario Ministry of Health provided funding for the study.

Image credit: iStock

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Zama zama crackdown: What are your thoughts on West Village residents taking the law into their own hands?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Authorities should bring in the army already
10% - 2530 votes
Illegal miners can't be scapegoated for all crime
52% - 12652 votes
What else did we expect without no proper policing
34% - 8307 votes
Vigilante groups are also part of the problem
3% - 822 votes
Vote
Rand - Dollar
16.92
-0.3%
Rand - Pound
20.13
+0.0%
Rand - Euro
17.06
-0.3%
Rand - Aus dollar
11.68
-0.1%
Rand - Yen
0.12
+0.2%
Gold
1,752.65
-0.4%
Silver
19.25
-1.5%
Palladium
2,144.50
-0.7%
Platinum
905.00
-1.0%
Brent Crude
96.59
+3.0%
Top 40
64,010
-0.3%
All Share
70,794
-0.3%
Resource 10
63,220
-1.1%
Industrial 25
87,118
+0.3%
Financial 15
16,098
-0.6%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

LEARN MORE