Computed Tomography Pulmonary Angiography during Pregnancy: Radiation Dose of Commonly Used Protocols and the Effect of Scan Length Optimization

Babs M. F. Hendriks*, Roald S. Schnerr, Gianluca Milanese, Cecile R. L. P. N. Jeukens, Sandra Niesen, Nienke G. Eijsvoogel, Joachim E. Wildberger, Marco Das

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Objective: To evaluate the radiation dose for pregnant women and fetuses undergoing commonly used computed tomography of the pulmonary arteries (CTPA) scan protocols and subsequently evaluate the simulated effect of an optimized scan length.

Materials and Methods: A total of 120 CTPA datasets were acquired using four distinctive scan protocols, with 30 patients per protocol. These datasets were mapped to Cristy phantoms in order to simulate pregnancy and to assess the effect of an effective radiation dose (in mSv) in the first, second, or third trimester of pregnancy, including a simulation of fetal dose in second and third trimesters. The investigated scan protocols involved a 64-slice helical scan at 120 kVp, a high-pitch dual source acquisition at 100 kVp, a dual-energy acquisition at 80/140 kVp, and an automated-kV-selection, high pitch helical scan at a reference kV of 100 kV(ref). The effective dose for women and fetuses was simulated before and after scan length adaptation. The original images were interpreted before and after scan length adaptations to evaluate potentially missed diagnoses.

Results: Large inter-scanner and inter-protocol variations were found; application of the latest technology decreased the dose for non-pregnant women by 69% (7.0-2.2 mSv). Individual scan length optimization proved safe and effective, decreasing the fetal dose by 76-83%. Nineteen (16%) cases of pulmonary embolism were diagnosed and, after scan length optimization, none were missed.

Conclusion: Careful CTPA scan protocol selection and additional optimization of scan length may result in significant radiation dose reduction for a pregnant patient and her fetus, whilst maintaining diagnostic confidence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)313-322
Number of pages10
JournalKorean Journal of Radiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2019


  • Computed tomography
  • Pulmonary angiography
  • Radiation dose
  • Pregnancy
  • Fetus
  • Pulmonary embolism

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