Pregnancy outcome after 1st-trimester inadvertent exposure to barium sulphate as a contrast media for upper gastrointestinal tract radiography

J Obstet Gynaecol. 2011 Oct;31(7):586-8. doi: 10.3109/01443615.2011.601359.


Despite barium being used as a contrast media for decades, the specific assessment of its safety in pregnant women is scarce. We are reporting the favourable pregnancy outcome in women who were inadvertently exposed to barium swallow and associated ionising radiation, early in pregnancy. A control group of age- and gravidity-matched unexposed pregnant women was also included. There were 32 live-born babies in the exposed group and 94 in the control group. Women had undergone diagnostic upper gastrointestinal tract (UGT) fluoroscopic examination at 3.3 ± 1.5 weeks' gestation. Estimated maternal radiation dose secondary to barium swallow varied widely, the maximum dose was estimated to be 2.45 mSv. Similar pregnancy outcomes were observed between the groups. The number of babies born with major malformations was not significantly different (p = 1.0) between cases and controls: one (3.1%) vs three (3.2%), respectively. In conclusion, our small prospective cohort study of women suggests no association between inadvertent exposure to ionising radiation and barium sulphate during fluoroscopic barium swallow and adverse fetal outcomes.

MeSH terms

  • Abnormalities, Drug-Induced / epidemiology
  • Adult
  • Barium Sulfate / adverse effects*
  • Contrast Media / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Fluoroscopy
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / diagnostic imaging*
  • Gestational Age*
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome*
  • Pregnancy Trimester, First
  • Prospective Studies


  • Contrast Media
  • Barium Sulfate