A new and unique study being conducted by the Cancer & Radiation Epidemiology Unit at the Gertner Institute, will evaluate the possible effects of fetal exposure to MRI on neurodevelopmental, behavioral & hearing outcomes


In the past few years, MRI scans have constituted an important diagnostic tool in the field of fetal medicine. The preference for MRI over CT in young populations occurred, amongst other reasons, following the recognition of risks associated with ionizing radiation. Nevertheless, the assumption that MRI technology does not involve exposure to radiation is incorrect and knowledge regarding long term outcomes of this radiation is limited.


A new and unique study is currently beginning in two of the largest hospitals in Israel. The study plans to evaluate the possible effect of fetal exposure to MRI on risk of developing health outcomes including hearing impairments and neuro-developmental and behavioral disorders.


As findings have accumulated regarding the increased risk to children of exposure to ionizing radiation, and considering the greater effect of ionizing radiation on young populations, there has been a growing preference for MRI over CT for imaging purposes amongst sensitive populations such as newborns and children. In parallel, significant improvement in MRI capabilities has made this technology an important diagnostic tool in the field of fetal medicine.   

Due to the false assumption that MRI does not involve exposure to radiation and since this technology is considered safe in the view of some physicians, there has been a substantial increase in fetal exposure to MRI in recent years, performed for both fetal and maternal indications. Following the launch of the National MRI Program in 2015 by the Ministry of Health which will increase the availability of MRI appointments, this increase is expected to be even more significant.

MRI technology employs three types of non-ionizing electromagnetic fields; High power static magnetic field (which is about 40,000 times stronger than the magnetic field of earth), magnetic field gradients and radiofrequency waves.

Despite the increased use of this technology, only a few studies have evaluated the long term health effects of exposure to MRI, while most studies focused on immediate effects.


Evaluation of the association between fetal exposure to MRI (during pregnancy) and the development of hearing impairment, neuro-developmental disorders (attention deficit disorder and autism spectrum disorders) and behavioral problems during childhood.


A cohort consisting of two groups of children will be established. The first group will include children exposed to MRI as fetuses. A comparison group will include children who were not exposed to MRI in utero and have similar demographic characteristics to the exposed children.

The data evaluated will include detailed information on the MRI exam, labor and postnatal hospitalization, details on family members, maternal and child characteristics including demographic and medical details and information on exposure to electromagnetic fields, data on children’s hearing impairment and evaluation of their neuro-developmental and behavioral condition.


The study results will contribute to the existing sparse knowledge on the subject of safety of MRI performance during pregnancy and will help establish guidelines for safe use of MRI as a diagnostic tool. The results will also contribute to public health policy formulation on the subject and to the decision making process amongst physicians working in the field.