Answer to Question #7790 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"

Category: Pregnancy and Radiation — Conception after exposures

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

My husband had a CT (computerized tomography) scan from his waist down to the legs. I believe that I became pregnant right after his CT scan, so we are worrying about the baby's health and considering an abortion. Our obstetrician said that the sperm were mature and would not be affected by the radiation. Could you please tell us the effect of CT on sperm?

Thank you for your question. The additional information you provided from your obstetrician is also appreciated.

What your obstetrician said about mature sperm being the ones used for conception is certainly true and it is also true that those sperm are more resistant to effects of radiation than the immature sperm.

What is probably of most interest to you, though, is that the amount of radiation exposure to the sperm from routine medical imaging exams (like a CT exam) is not enough to cause damage. And, if that isn't enough to convince you that there won't be ill effects from the radiation exposure, you will also be interested in knowing that there is no human data showing a link between preconception radiation of the ovaries or testes and genetic effects.

The radiation exposure will not have caused any harmful effects for the pregnancy. However, you should also know that there is a normal rate of genetic effects in the population of the United States; this means that the outcome of some pregnancies will be a child with genetic defects regardless of any radiation exposure.

The Health Physics Society has provided information for physicians on radiation and pregnancy in our Physicians Documents area. Your obstetrician might be interested in this information and it might help her counsel you on your pregnancy.

Kelly Classic
Certified Medical Health Physicist

Answer posted on 28 August 2008. 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.