Answer to Question #11937 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"
The following question was answered by an expert in the appropriate field:
I am a health care professional and worked in a hospital throughout my pregnancy on an internal medicine floor. I was in intermittent close contact with patients who underwent a variety of diagnostic and treatment procedures, including x rays, computed tomography (CT) scans, ventilation/perfusion (V/Q) scans, bone scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), fluoroscopy, cardiac catheterizations, and occasionally nuclear stress tests. I did not handle body fluids, and I don't believe any of my patients had positron emission tomography (PET) scans.
No one ever advised me to take precautions around such patients or wear a radiation dosimeter, and none of my pregnant colleagues wore dosimeters either. Now I'm very worried that I inadvertently put my unborn child at risk of radiation exposure from my patients. Do you think I should be concerned?
I do not think you need to be concerned, and here's why.
We can rule out radiation exposure from MRI or ultrasound because these do not expose the patient or you to ionizing radiation (like x rays can).
We can also rule out radiation exposure from any of the exams to which your patients were exposed that used only x rays (x rays, CT scans, fluoroscopy, cardiac catheterizations) because the patient is not radioactive after these tests. The patient is exposed to get the image, and there is no radiation in the patient after the test is done.
That leaves only the nuclear medicine tests (V/Q scans, bone scans, stress tests, etc.). While there is a possibility you might have received some exposure from being around these patients, your exposure would be minimal, if any, and your unborn child would be even less likely because your abdominal tissue would protect it.
Workers who are intermittently around these patients often are not badged because they are not expected (based on historical radiation exposure records) to get more than 1 millisievert (mSv) per year. For reference, the radiation exposure you received from natural background radiation annually is just over 3 mSv.
Another reason why I do not think you need to be concerned are the radiation doses where I work. We do over 60,000 nuclear medicine procedures each year. We have about 58 nuclear medicine technologists, and their average dose is less than 1 mSv per year. They are close to the patients and handle the radioactive materials, and still they do not get much of a radiation dose.
Certified Medical Health Physicist