Answer to Question #11872 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"

Category: Pregnancy and Radiation — Exposures to embryo/fetus

The following question was answered by an expert in the appropriate field:


I am 13 weeks pregnant. I have two questions:

  1. I found out my coworker had a computed tomography (CT) head scan this morning, and I have been working with her all day. Is there any basis for concern about radiation exposure to my baby?
  2. I work in a hospital, and I was in the emergency department. I was standing beside a curtain and behind the curtain they were doing x rays on a patient. I did not know this until I saw the x-ray machine leaving. I have been told that if I was standing 30 centimeters (cm) away the exposure would be minimal. Now that I am pregnant, is this still true? No one told me to move.

There is no concern for the baby in either case. The answers to your questions explain why.

  1. A person who has a CT scan or any regular x-ray procedure is not radioactive and poses no radiation exposure danger to anyone around them after the procedure.
  2. For standard diagnostic portable x rays, being 30–60 cm away is enough distance to decrease any scattered radiation to unmeasurable levels. The majority of the radiation is being pointed in the direction of the patient having the x ray(s), so others in the area are potentially exposed only to scattered radiation, which is very low in energy and cannot travel very far.

So you can see that the baby was not exposed to any radiation in the first case, and it is unlikely the baby was exposed to any radiation in the latter case.

Kelly Classic
Certified Medical Health Physicist

Answer posted on 1 February 2017. The information posted on this web page is intended as general reference information only. Specific facts and circumstances may affect the applicability of concepts, materials, and information described herein. The information provided is not a substitute for professional advice and should not be relied upon in the absence of such professional advice. To the best of our knowledge, answers are correct at the time they are posted. Be advised that over time, requirements could change, new data could be made available, and Internet links could change, affecting the correctness of the answers. Answers are the professional opinions of the expert responding to each question; they do not necessarily represent the position of the Health Physics Society.