Quantification of fetal dose reduction if abdominal CT is limited to the top of the iliac crests in pregnant patients with trauma

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OBJECTIVE: The purposes of this study were to correlate fetal z-axis location within the maternal abdomen on CT with gestational age and estimate fetal dose reduction of a study limited to the abdomen only, with its lower aspect at the top of the iliac crests, compared with full abdominopelvic CT in pregnant trauma patients. MATERIALS AND METHODS: We performed a study of pregnant patients who underwent CT of the abdomen and pelvis for trauma at a single institution over a 10-year period. The inferior aspect of maternal liver, spleen, gallbladder, pancreas, adrenals, and kidneys was recorded as above or below the iliac crests. The distance from the iliac crest to the top of the fetus or gestational sac was determined. The CT images of the limited and full scanning studies were independently reviewed by two blinded radiologists to identify traumatic injuries. Fetal dose profiles, including both scatter and primary radiation, were computed analytically along the central axis of the patient to estimate fetal dose reduction. Linear regression analysis was performed between gestational age and distance of the fetus to the iliac crests. RESULTS: Thirty-five patients were included (mean age, 26.2 years). Gestational age ranged from 5 to 38 weeks, with 5, 19, and 11 gestations in the first, second, and third trimesters, respectively. All solid organs were above the iliac crests in all patients. In three of six patients, traumatic findings in the pelvis would have been missed with the limited study. There was high correlation between gestational age and distance of the fetus to the iliac crests (R2 = 0.84). The mean gestational age at which the top of the fetus was at the iliac crest was 17.3 weeks. Using the limited scanning study, fetuses at 5, 20, and 40 weeks of gestation would receive an estimated 4.3%, 26.2%, and 59.9% of the dose, respectively, compared with the dose for the full scanning study. CONCLUSION: In pregnant patients in our series with a history of trauma, CT of the abdomen only was an effective technique to reduce fetal radiation exposure compared with full abdomen and pelvis CT.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)705-712
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Roentgenology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016



  • CT
  • Fetal dose
  • Pregnant
  • Radiation dose
  • Trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging

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