During pregnancy, the risk of radiation exposure to the fetus is increased so that more than the usual benefit is necessary to justify computed tomography (CT; or other radiation exposure) than in non-pregnant patients. In the setting of a life-threatening illness, CT may be indicated to assess for potentially fatal complications such as hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, and low platelet count (HELLP) syndrome. After delivery, patients rarely develop serious problems requiring radiologic evaluation. When indicated, however, CT may be invaluable in making the diagnosis or determining the severity of peri- and post-partum complications, including uterine perforation, hemorrhage, endometritis, thrombophlebitis, and abscess formation. At times, CT may be the first to uncover conditions, such as post-partum cardiomyopathy, and heart failure, which are usually diagnosed by other modalities but may explain the symptoms for which the study was ordered. In some centers, CT pulmonary angiography represents the standard of care to diagnose pulmonary thromboembolism. In this article, we illustrate the spectrum of peri-partum and post-partum complications on CT to familiarize the radiologist with the CT features of these potentially life-threatening pregnancy-related complications.
- HELLP syndrome