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New guidelines for use of X-rays during pregnancy

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(Vienna, 20 December 2017) The new "Pregnancy and X-ray examinations - Guidelines for radiological practice" published by the Austrian Ministry for Health and Women is aimed at all those involved in the medical use of X-rays. It is primarily intended to serve as a basis for assessing the radiological risk to the unborn child arising from different applications.

The guidelines were initiated at the Department of Biomedical Imaging and Image-guided Therapy (radiologist Azadeh Hojreh, together with radiographers Martina Dünkelmayer and Monika Kaderk) and were drawn up on the basis of the latest scientific knowledge. As well as radiology, medical physics also played a significant role (MedUni Vienna Center for Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering, Peter Homolka). Manfred Ditto, Head of Department III/5 Radiological Protection, Environment and Health, supervised the project on behalf of The Ministry of Health.

"The guidelines have become a standard work and are also cited internationally," says Christian Herold, Head of the Department of Biomedical Imaging and Image-guided Therapy, MedUni Vienna/Vienna General Hospital, explaining the importance of the brochure, "X-rays are an essential part of modern imaging diagnostics and interventional radiology. However, they must be used with care to ensure that only absolutely essential examinations and interventions are carried out."

Use of X-rays during pregnancy
Careful use also means working in such a way that the image information required is obtained while exposing the patient to the lowest possible radiation dose.  The use of x-rays during pregnancy must be viewed from a very special perspective. Not only do the risks and benefits to the pregnant woman have to be considered but also those to the unborn child. Also, patients are often worried that the x-rays will harm their unborn child. However, in the vast majority of cases these fears are unfounded, as most x-ray examinations and interventions pose practically no radiological risk to the unborn child, or at least only a minimal one.

These guidelines are primarily aimed at those involved in the medical application of x-rays. They are first and foremost intended to serve as a basis for assessing the radiological risk to the unborn child arising from different applications and to provide instructions for a practical approach. The guidelines also outline the legal position and the principles of radiological protection, as well as the biological effects of radiation.