Prenatal X-Ray Exposure and Teratogenic Risks: A Literature Review


Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Telefono Rosso Teratology Information Service, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Rome, Italy



Context: Many women of reproductive age and pregnant women require diagnostic tests involving ionizing radiation. Fetal exposure to radiation worries both the patient and the obstetricians and could lead to inappropriate termination of pregnancy. Evidence Acquisition: To conduct this review of the literature Pub-med was searched. Retrospective studies, reviews of literature, multicentric epidemiological case control studies were reviewed. Official data base Reprotox and The Teratogen Information System Teris were also consulted. Results: Standard diagnostic X ray tests including those of the lower abdomen imply that the dose absorbed by the uterus is in any case less than 0.05 Sv ( = 5 rad). The majority of the studies in literature estimates that 1-2 rad fetal exposure may increase the risk of leukemia of 1.5 - 2.0 over the natural incidence, meaning that 1 in 2,000 children exposed to ionizing radiation in utero will develop leukemia in childhood. Conclusions: At present, no single diagnostic procedure is able to cause damage to the embryo or fetus. There are possible harmful effects for doses above 0.2 - 0.25 Gy (20-25 rad).