Answer to Question #1327 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"

Category: Pregnancy and Radiation — Exposures not directly to embryo/fetus

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


My doctor has suggested I have a chest x ray to identify why I have pain in my upper back, beneath my ribs at the front and in the middle of my chest. I am awaiting my appointment but have just discovered I am five weeks pregnant. I am eager to have the x ray done but am worried about the safety of the baby. Could you please explain the risks?


When you receive a chest x ray at a qualified facility, the exposure of the x rays is to your chest, not to your embryo. The "scatter" that might reach the embryo would be extremely small and would not represent an increased risk for birth defects or miscarriage to your embryo. If you are healthy and young and have no reproductive problems or family history of reproductive problems your risk for birth defects is 3% and for miscarriage, 15%. Neither you nor I can change that risk. Good luck with your pregnancy.

Robert Brent MD, PhD

Answer posted on 30 October 2001. 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.