Imaging the pregnant patient with abdominal pain

Graham W. Wallace, Melissa A. Davis, Richard C. Semelka, Julia R. Fielding

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Imaging of pregnant patients with non-obstetric abdominal pain is reviewed, with an accompanying pictorial essay of cases with concentration on magnetic resonance imaging. Non-obstetric causes of abdominal pain during pregnancy are similar to those of non-pregnant patients. The most common causes are appendicitis and cholecystitis. Other causes are myriad and include biliary, gastrointestinal, infectious, inflammatory, and malignant etiologies, among others. The approach to imaging in pregnant patient is unique, as it is imperative to minimize potentially harmful radiation exposures to the fetus. Ultrasound and MRI are the primary modalities for evaluation of the pregnant patient with abdominal pain. The use of intravenous contrast is discouraged, except in highly-selected patients where there is no other way to obtain vital diagnostic information. CT is still used as the mainstay of evaluation of blunt abdominal trauma and is commonly used for diagnosis of small bowel obstruction, stone disease, and work-up of malignancy during pregnancy. A discussion of test selection and underlying rationale is presented.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)849-860
Number of pages12
JournalAbdominal Imaging
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2012


  • Abdominal pain
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Pregnancy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Gastroenterology
  • Urology


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