Safety of endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography in pregnancy: Fluoroscopy time and fetal exposure, does it matter?

World J Gastrointest Endosc. 2013 Apr 16;5(4):148-53. doi: 10.4253/wjge.v5.i4.148.


Aim: To estimate the fetal radiation exposure using thermoluminescent dosimeters (TLD's) in pregnant patients undergoing endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) and assess its relevance.

Methods: Data on thirty-five therapeutic ERCPs conducted in pregnant patients from 2001 to 2009 were retrieved from a prospective database. Techniques to minimize fluoroscopy time were implemented and the fluoroscopy times captured. TLD's were placed on the mother to estimate the fetal radiation exposure and the results were compared to the maximum allowed dose of radiation to the fetus [0.005 gray (Gy)]. Obstetrics consultations were obtained and the fetus was monitored before and after the ERCP. Fluoroscopy was performed at 75 kVp. ERCP was performed with the patients supine by dedicated biliary endoscopists performing more than 500 cases a year.

Results: A total of 35 pregnant patients underwent ERCP and biliary sphincterotomy (14 in first trimester, 11 in second trimester, and 10 in third trimester). Mean maternal age was 25 years (range 16-37 years) and mean gestational age was 18.9 wk (range 4-35 wk). Mean fluoroscopy time was 0.15 min (range 0-1 min). For 23 women, the estimated fetal radiation exposure was almost negligible (< 0.0001 Gy) while for 8 women, it was within the 0.0001-0.0002 Gy range. Three women had an estimated fetal radiation exposure between 0.0002 and 0.0005 Gy and 1 woman had an estimated fetal radiation exposure greater than 0.0005 Gy. Complications included 2 post-sphincterotomy bleeds, 2 post-ERCP pancreatitis, and 1 fatal acute respiratory distress syndrome. One patient developed cholecystitis 2 d after ERCP.

Conclusion: ERCP with modified techniques is safe during pregnancy, and estimating the fetal radiation exposure from the fluoroscopy time or measuring it via TLD's is unnecessary.

Keywords: Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography; Fetal exposure; Fluoroscopy; Pancreaticobiliary disease; Pregnancy.