A new study in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (JAAOS) suggests that imaging studies used to diagnose traumatic injuries sustained by pregnant women are safe when used properly.

Ionizing radiation may lead to birth defects or spontaneous abortions and increase the risk of cancer at high enough doses. Factors such as the body part being imaged, type of imaging, amount and type of radiation emitted, the mother’s bodily build, the space between the fetus and imaged area, and the safety protocols all affect overall fetal exposure to ionizing radiation. Ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are considered safe for pregnant patients whereas computed tomography (CT) of the pelvis requires greater consideration due to higher doses of radiation to the fetus.

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Study authors also found that X-ray exposure from a single diagnostic procedure does not cause harmful fetal effects. Further, the chances of a harmful effect is proportional to the radiation dose and the gestational age of the embryo/fetus at the time of exposure.

Lead study author Jonas L. Matzon, MD, concluded that most diagnostic studies are generally safe and the “radiation doses from these studies are well below thresholds considered risky.”

For more information visit AAOS.org.