Everyday here at Cincinnati Children’s we perform MRIs to evaluate the fetus, or unborn child. MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is a way of taking detailed pictures of the inside of the body using a magnet combined with pulses of radio wave energy. This technology has been shown to be a valuable tool in taking a closer look at some of the findings identified on conventional ultrasound. The first question every parent asks when they come to us for this study is, “Is this safe for my unborn child?”
We believe that it is safe for your child. To this date, there has been no scientific evidence demonstrating that MRI is dangerous to the developing fetus. Unlike computed tomography (CT) or radiography (x-ray), MRI does not use ionizing radiation. The 2014 American College of Radiology practice guidelines support its use for fetal imaging, describing how fetal MRI can help us come to the correct diagnosis and play a key role in delivery planning and medical counseling.
The risks are theoretical rather than tangible, as some question the possibility of energy deposition at high-field strength magnets (3T or higher) having harmful effects to the developing fetus. Also, given the relatively recent use of this technology, the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that the safety of MRI with respect to the fetus has “not been established.” We work in conjunction with the Cincinnati Fetal Center in collaboration with University of Cincinnati Medical Center and Good Samaritan Hospital, brining together a network of physicians, nurses and technologists who specialize in diagnosing and treating complex and rare fetal conditions. As part of this team of experts, we work together to carefully select patients for this study in which the benefits outweigh all the possible risks.
Contributed by Dr. Usha D. Nagaraj and edited by Tony Dandino (RT-MR).