Pregnancy and MRI

Magnetic Resonance Imaging is a commonly used investigative procedure in the field of medicine for various reasons to diagnose or to aid diagnosis of medical problems. It is quite obvious that MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) will be required during pregnancy also for diagnostic purpose. If a pregnant woman suffer from medical problem where MRI investigative may be required.

Now the question is, should MRI be used during pregnancy to diagnose a medical problem? The answer to the question is not simple as it sounds. The present recommendation of MRI use during pregnancy (as a precaution), especially during first trimester of pregnancy, when organogenesis (development of organs in a fetus) takes place is to use only if clearly indicated and only if the potential benefits of using MRI clearly outweigh the potential risks, however minor the risk may be.

Till date no study or research has indicated any ill effect of MRI on the growing fetus. MRI does not use any ionizing radiation to which growing fetus is particularly vulnerable, unlike CT scan where ionizing radiation is used. In general the adverse effects of MRI during pregnancy is the same as for the general population, although the growing fetus may be more sensitive to the effects of MRI than adult population or even children.

But there is a special risk involved with MRI during pregnancy, which is the use of contrast media. Gadolinium is compound which is used as contrast media in MRI and gadolinium can cross placental barrier and enter the blood stream of the growing fetus and cause harm to the fetus. The use of gadolinium should be avoided during pregnancy as far as possible.

Although there are certain concerns regarding use of MRI during pregnancy, it is being used increasingly during pregnancy to diagnose and monitor the congenital defects in a fetus. The increase use of MRI in diagnosis of congenital abnormalities is due to the fact that MRI can give better information than ultrasound and MRI also do not use ionizing radiation. The MRI used for diagnosis of congenital abnormalities is without contrast media (gadolinium). MRI is nowadays commonly used for pre-surgical, in-utero diagnosis and evaluation of fetal tumors, such as primary teratomas. MRI also help in open fetal surgeries, as well as help in planning delivery of babies with congenital defects, the congenital defects which may lead to death of baby during delivery.

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