But what if something is wrong in the woman’s body and the diagnosis needs to be clarified by means of an MRI examination? Is magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) harmful to the embryo?
Many doctors and scientists speak of a general harmlessness of an MRI in pregnancy, if the examination is necessary. Despite the positive attitude of some colleagues and MRI experts, we see a possible risk for the baby. Therefore, we distance ourselves from MRI examinations in pregnant women in our practice and do not perform MRIs in pregnant women. Other practices handle this differently. We believe that MRI in pregnant women should only be performed in specialized facilities or hospitals if there is a so-called vital indication, i.e., life-threatening medical conditions that require life-saving measures.
An MRI is a reliable, harmless examination method
There are many prejudices circulating concerning MRI: The examination is performed with the help of radioactive radiation, there are high temperatures, the sounds are loud, the knocking is harmful. All this can worry patients.
But do not worry: these are just rumors!
The fact is that MRI diagnostics is currently one of the best imaging techniques. It can produce accurate images of organs, soft tissues, bones and blood vessels. In general, MRI is used, for example, to detect bone fractures, bleeding, inflammation, vascular changes and stenosis. Furthermore, it can also be used to reliably diagnose overstretching and tears of ligaments and tendons. The examination is also suitable for assessing the extent of arthrosis. MRI is also a valuable aid in tumor diagnostics.
And most importantly, there are no known harmful effects of this examination method to date.
MRI in pregnant women: Divided opinions
Pregnant women who may need MRI diagnostics are naturally afraid for their baby, worried about physical malformations of the child or even pregnancy loss as a result of the examination.
Many doctors believe that MRI is not dangerous for either the mother or the child. They base their thesis on the fact that the examination – unlike a conventional X-ray examination or a CT scan – does not involve the use of ionizing radiation. Accordingly, the patient and baby are not exposed to radiation or radioactivity.
A second aspect concerns the tissue heating that occurs in the course of an MRI and may even be noticeable for the patient.
Therefore, many prospective mothers are concerned that the increased temperature may be harmful to the baby. Some doctors believe this is not the case, as the potential temperature increase is very small.
The third potentially critical point concerns the thumping sounds of the MRI, which some patients find very loud. Again, fear often arises that the increased volume level may be harmful to the embryo. Advocates of MRI in pregnant women cite the fact that there is no scientifically proven data to prove this.
However, there is agreement on some points: this concerns both the timing of the examination during pregnancy and the administration of contrast media.
For example, the following applies: As a precaution, the examination method should not be performed in the first third of pregnancy (exception: a vital indication for the mother).
Experts also advise against the use of contrast agents during pregnancy. For example, the drug gadolinium is suspected of promoting rheumatic or other inflammatory diseases in children in the first four years of life if the mother had to take it during pregnancy for an examination.
Conclusion: Yes and no to MRI in pregnant women
Pregnancy does not in principle preclude magnetic resonance imaging. However, the indication should always be considered (“Does an MRI help us in the diagnosis?”). If the necessity and benefit of an MRI are questionable, it should be avoided during pregnancy.
We specialize in magnetic resonance imaging and offer state-of-the-art technology in our practice in Frankfurt. Our MRI device has a tube diameter of 70 cm and is therefore much wider than usual devices. With MoodLight lighting and individual music of your choice, we provide a pleasant atmosphere during the examination. As a precaution, however, we do not examine pregnant women, as we cannot completely rule out a risk to the baby.
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