Imaging for suspected pulmonary embolism in pregnancy-what about the fetal dose? A comprehensive review of the literature

Insights Imaging. 2010 Nov;1(5-6):361-372. doi: 10.1007/s13244-010-0043-6. Epub 2010 Oct 2.


OBJECTIVE: To give a comprehensive overview of fetal doses reported in the literature when imaging the pregnant woman with suspected pulmonary embolism (PE). METHODS: A comprehensive literature search in the PubMed, MEDLINE and EMBASE databases yielded a total of 1,687 papers that were included in the analysis and have been analysed with regard to fetal dose in suspected PE radiological imaging strategies. RESULTS: Fetal dose in chest computed tomography (CT) ranges between 0.013 and 0.026 mGy in early and 0.06-0.1 mGy in late pregnancy compared with 99mTc-MAA perfusion scintigraphy with a fetal dose of 0.1-0.6 mGy in early and 0.6-0.8 mGy in late pregnancy. (99m)Tc-aerosol ventilation scintigraphy results in 0.1-0.3 mGy. However, there is concern about female breast irradiation in CT, which is higher than in scintigraphy. CT radiation risks for breast tissue remain unclear. CONCLUSION: Knowledge of dosimetry and radiation risks is crucial in the radiological work-up of suspected PE in pregnancy. It is reasonable to reserve scintigraphy for pregnant patients with normal chest radiography findings and no history of asthma or chronic lung disease. Performing CT applying dose reduction instead of scintigraphy will minimise fetal radiation dose and maximise the diagnostic value.