During the period, the number of these tests on pregnant women increased by 10.1 percent a year. The number of CT exams increased by 25.3 percent per year. These exams involve higher amounts of radiation than many other imaging procedures, the researchers noted.
They looked specifically at 5,270 examinations done on 3,285 patients. During the study period, the number of patients imaged each year increased from 237 to 449, and the number of exams increased from 331 to 732. This is an 89 percent increase in patients and a 121 percent increase in examinations. Yet, during the same period, the number of deliveries increased only 7 percent, Lazarus said.
Although the study did not look at the specific causes of increased imaging in these patients, the finding seemed to follow the trend of increased medical imaging in all patient groups, Lazarus said.
"We know from other studies that imaging, particularly MRI and CT, has been increasing in the general population. The increase in the general population has been attributed to multiple causes, including technological progress and the high yield of radiology in the diagnosis and triage of patients. Our data in pregnant patients closely approximates these more general trends," she said.
Dr. Jorge Guerra, a professor of radiology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, agreed that the number of CT scans has increased, as has all imaging, but the radiation exposure to the fetus is minimal.
"The dose of radiation given to the fetus in any one exam is very low," he said. For pregnant women undergoing a CT, the odds that the infant will develop a fatal childhood cancer directly related to the radiation exposure of the exam is one in 2,000, Guerra said.
Guerra noted that limiting radiation exposure is an important goal, and current doses of radiation are significa
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