CT in Pregnancy

Risks and Benefits

Claudia T. Sadro MD, FABR, FRCPC; Theodore J. Dubinsky MD


Appl Radiol. 2013;42(10):6-16. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Pregnant patients may experience nonobstetrical emergencies over the course of their pregnancy, including appendicitis, renal colic, ovarian torsion, hemorrhagic ovarian cysts, trauma, and pulmonary embolism. The utilization of computed tomography (CT) in the diagnosis of diseases such as these has increased in recent years, and the same trend is observed in pregnant women.[1] Ionizing radiation is a carcinogen and the increased utilization of CT has been cited as a potential cause for an increase in the prevalence of cancer in developed countries.[2–4] When CT is performed in pregnancy, there is also concern about the teratogenic and carcinogenic effects of ionizing radiation to the developing fetus. In this review article, we will discuss the role of CT in diagnosing nonobstetrical emergency conditions in pregnancy and the risks and benefits to the mother and fetus. For simplicity, we will refer to the conceptus as the fetus. More precisely, the fetus refers to the conceptus after 13 weeks gestational age and the embryo refers to the conceptus before 13 weeks gestational age.