A CAT scan is a common name for the imaging procedure called a computed axial tomography scan. A CAT scan procedure uses a computer to combine several x-ray images to produce cross-sectional and three-dimensional images of internal organs and other structures within the body.
Why are CAT Scans performed?
CAT scans are used to assess the internal structures inside the body. Common problems a CAT scan may find include:
- Head – blood clots, skull fractures, tumors, and infections
- Spine – vertebral fractures and herniated intervertebral disks
- Chest – heart abnormalities, lung abnormalities and infections
- Abdomen – tumors, infections, abnormal anatomy, appendicitis and cysts
What about CAT Scans and risks during pregnancy?
A CAT scan involves exposure to radiation at levels slightly higher than normal x-rays. The effective radiation dose from this procedure is about 10 mSv, which is about the same the average person receives from background radiation (i.e. from the sun) in 3 years. However, the benefit of receiving an accurate diagnosis may outweigh the risk associated with radiation exposure.
According to the American College of Radiology, no single diagnostic x-ray has a radiation dose significant enough to cause adverse affects in a developing embryo or fetus. In general, CAT scans are not recommended during pregnancy unless the benefits of the CAT scan clearly outweigh the potential risk.
The most common complaint involves adverse reactions to the dye used during CAT scans. Reaction may include itching, hives, nausea or rapid breathing. Severe reactions, such as difficulty breathing, are rare.
As with any medical procedure, it is important to inform your health care provider that you are pregnant prior to any testing and medical procedures.
What about CAT Scans and breastfeeding?
Nursing mothers should wait 24-48 hours after receiving an injection of dye used for CAT scans before resuming breastfeeding. The dye can be passed through breast milk to the baby.
Compiled using information from the following sources:
Radiology Info, http://www.radiologyinfo.org/
American Pregnancy Association, http://www.americanpregnancy.org