Prenatal radiation exposure : fact sheet for physicians
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Prenatal radiation exposure : fact sheet for physicians

Filetype[PDF-161.80 KB]

  • English

  • Details:

    • Alternative Title:
      Radiation emergencies
    • Description:
      Most radiation exposure events will not expose the fetus to levels likely to cause health effects. This is true for radiation exposure from most diagnostic medical exams as well as from occupational radiation exposures that fall within regulatory limits. However, instances may arise where an expectant mother and her physician should have some concern. This brochure provides physicians with background information about prenatal radiation exposure as an aid in counseling these patients.

      Because the human embryo or fetus is protected in the uterus, a radiation dose to a fetus tends to be lower than the dose to its mother for most radiation exposure events. However, the human embryo and fetus are particularly sensitive to ionizing radiation, and the health consequences of exposure can be severe, even at radiation doses too low to immediately affect the mother. Such consequences can include growth retardation, malformations, impaired brain function, and cancer.

      It is important to understand that the purpose of the brochure is only to provide technical background information to the clinician. Although discussions between healthcare provider and patient about prenatal radiation exposure may begin with risk or balancing risk and benefit, the counseling generally includes identifying all influences that could increase the likelihood of adverse maternal and fetal health outcomes. How to best communicate with the expectant mother about any type of risk depends upon many factors. First consideration is the educational background of the patient and linguistic and cultural barriers. But generally one must also take into account the level of stress in the expectant mother and other potential psychological influences.

      In summary, the CDC recognizes that providing information and advice to expectant mothers falls into the broader context of preventive healthcare counseling during prenatal care. In this setting, the purpose of the communication is always to promote health and long-term quality of life for the mother and child.

      CDC-INFO Pub ID 998630

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