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Exposure of radiation with barium meal in early pregnancy risky - Online Doctor Chats

Date : 21-Feb-2012
User rating for this question
Very Good Posted in: Early Pregnancy Signs and Symptoms
Answered by

General & Family Physician
Practicing since : 2004
Answered : 1722 Questions
Doctor :   Hi
Doctor :   please rpoceed with your query .
Doctor :   proceed*
User :   Hi, I'll copy the question for you.
User :   My wife got pregnant and before she knew about it she had a medical checkup where she received x-rays. She is worried and wants to know if she has anything to worry about for the baby's health. So here are some detailed information about my wife's pregnancy and the checkup 1. Her last period came on March 2nd. Her period cycle is about 30--33 days. So her ovulating day might have been March 18th, 19th, 20th or 21st (woman ovulate 14 days before the next period comes. Assume her period this month came on Apr 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th ) 2. She had the barium meal radiography on Apr 7th. She was on the machine with three positions. First, standing on her feet. Then she lied on her back as the machine moved under the operator's control. Last she moved herself and lay on her face. Roughly, the course lasted around 2 and a half minutes. I've checked online and several sites answered this question and they all seem to agree that there is a such a small chance that she shouldn't worry about any it. I ask this question primarily to set her mind at ease.
Doctor :   ok, please give me a couple of mins to read the query
User :   No problem
Doctor :   did you consult a gynecologist after this incident ?
User :   Yeah, she lives in China, and she consulted a maternity doctor.
User :   That doctor suggested she have an abortion. Which I find outrageous.
Doctor :   what did the doctor say ? did she ask for an ultrasound scan to check?
User :   She says the fetus is too small.
Doctor :   ok
Doctor :   let me explain it to you
User :   She suggested for , ok
Doctor :   we believe that pregnant women or even women of child bearing age must avoid exposure to radiation
Doctor :   especially in the early weeks of pregnancy
Doctor :   since barium meal has an exposure of radiation , it is a risk to the baby
User :   yeah, she wasn't aware of the pregnancy at the time unfortunately, or she wouldn't have had the x-ray
Doctor :   there is a limit for radiation exposure upto which we consider it safe
Doctor :   that is we call it as units in rad
User :   5 rads, right?
User :   I looked this up.
Doctor :   generally upto i rad of exposure carries a risk of 1 in 1000 chance of affecting the fetus
User :   over 5 rads is where the danger starts I think
Doctor :   upto 1 rad
User :   ok
Doctor :   if it is 5 or more rad , it will cause dangerous side effects
User :   Do you have any idea how much the x-ray would have given her, an estimate?
Doctor :   with barium meal one exposure we expect around 0.3 to 0.4 rads absorbed by the fetus
Doctor :   you said she had 3 films right ?
Doctor :   I may not be able to predict , as it varies with every radiology centre
User :   This is a guess, based on what she described to me on what the x-ray was like, she wasn't sure though.
Doctor :   I would say around 0.9 to 1 rad exposure
User :   yeah, that seems about right
Doctor :   which puts us in risk cannot be ruled out category
User :   but, the odds are still good there's no problem
Doctor :   for any amount of radiation , we say , we cannot rule out the risk
User :   makes sense
Doctor :   since the fetus is also very small , an anamoly scan may not help
Doctor :   as this is the early period of growth , most of the organs and the heart grow during this time
Doctor :   the first three months are very crucial in deciding the brain development too
Doctor :   and there may be a risk of cancer also
Doctor :   this is not to scare you
Doctor :   but i just shared the true facts with you , as it is my duty to alert you
Doctor :   hence I would suggest you to see a radiologist
Doctor :   and consider a second opinion
Doctor :   they will be best to tell you the amount of exposure expected from the procedure and how much the frowing fetus has absorbed
Doctor :   are you with me ?
User :   yeah
Doctor :   the radialogist can give you the right picture
Doctor :   then it would be helpful to decide what can be done as a next step
User :   Ok, she asked the doctor that gave her the exam, but since she is in China, the guy didn't know and didn't want to be responsible so gave her little information
Doctor :   may i know your wife's age ?
User :   33
User :   this will be our first baby
Doctor :   Ok, I suggest you review with a specialist in radiology , carry the films along and the final impression of barium meal
User :   she has had an abortion before several years ago
Doctor :   I am sorry to know of her previous abortion , I wish you all the best for this one to turn out successful
Doctor :   any radiologist will be of great help
User :   thanks we appreciate that and your time
Doctor :   pleasure here
User :   thanks again
Doctor :   once the radiologist explains it to you
Doctor :   you may weigh the risks over benifits
Doctor :   in continuing the pregnancy and take a wise decision
Doctor :   I suggest after seeing the radilogist , you again take the gynecologist opinion
User :   ok, I'll pass along our chat to her so she can see what we discussed, thanks
User :   ok
Doctor :   I hope things would be positive for both of you
User :   me too
Doctor :   did i answer your questions ?
Doctor :   are there any more questions for me to helpy you with?
Doctor :   thansk for consulting me
Doctor :   thank you , take care
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