Pregnant women are likely to get exposed to a harmful chemical while they undergo magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans in the first few weeks of the first trimester, according to a study. The study stated that this chemical can have an adverse effect on the fetus.

The research, published in the medical journal Radiology on Tuesday, looked into the first-trimester exposure to the chemical, which is a dye called gadolinium contrast media. This chemical is used in nearly 30 to 40 percent MRI scans in the United States to get clear difference between the internal organs, blood vessels, soft tissues and bones.

The study stated that many pregnant women undergo MRI scans without realizing that they are expecting. These women could get exposed to the gadolinium-based contrast agents (GBCA), which may not be good for the fetus.

“It is known that gadolinium contrast crosses the placenta and enters fetal circulation,” lead researcher Steven Bird, from the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research of Food and Drug Administration in Silver Spring, Maryland, said.

The researcher also said the safety of GBCAs or gadolinium contrast media in pregnant women “has not been established, and their use during pregnancy is not recommended unless essential to the health of the woman or fetus”.

“Available data from cohort studies and case reports have revealed inconsistent findings regarding the association between GBCAs and adverse fetal outcome,” Bird added.

For the study, the research team analyzed data of around 4.7 million pregnancies that ended up in live births from the year 2006 to the year 2017. The information was collected from the Sentinel Distributed Database, which was funded by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

During the study, the researchers looked into the MRI procedures taken place in pregnant women with and without GBCAs. They also looked into the location of scan on their bodies.

At the end of the study, the academics found that nearly 0.1 percent of all pregnancies or one in every 860 pregnancies was exposed to GBCAs. In other words, 5,457 pregnancies in the study were exposed to the MRI contrast agent.

The research team also found that nearly 22 percent of the MRIs were scans of the abdominal and pelvic regions. In these cases, 70 percent of exposures to GBCAs occurred in the first trimester of pregnancy.

The lead researcher said many of this exposure to GBCAs occurred “when a woman may not yet be aware of her pregnancy . . . raises the importance for patients and healthcare providers to evaluate the possibility of pregnancy before administration of GBCA”.

“Increased attention to pregnancy screening measures may help reduce inadvertent exposure to gadolinium. Healthcare providers should use GBCAs only when the additional diagnostic information provided by contrast is necessary,” Bird told Reuters.

MRI MRI Contrast Agent Exposure Likely In Pregnant Women During First Trimester Photo: Pixabay