Radiation Risk and Xrays

X-rays are a type of radiation called ionising radiation. What many people do not realize is that ionising radiation is also found all around us, in the soil, sun, air, plants, and food we eat. Ionising radiation is also called background radiation because we are constantly being exposed to it as we live our lives. Medical imaging technology uses a form of this natural radiation, called X-rays. While we are constantly being exposed to some radiation, medical and dental providers do their best to limit their patients’ exposure to X-ray radiation. Below is more information on the risks associated with the X-ray technology used in medical imaging.

Why Are X-Rays Used?

X-rays are commonly used in medical imaging to help medical and dental providers get an idea of what is happening inside the body. There are different types of medical imaging procedures that use X-rays for a variety of purposes ranging from snapshots of the body to watching organs function. With the X-ray scans or imaging, the provider is better able to diagnose a condition and plan an appropriate treatment.

Radiation Risks of X-Rays

The X-rays used in medical imaging expose patients to very small amounts of radiation. However, with X-ray imaging tests being used for many purposes, people are becoming more concerned about the potential radiation risks. There are research studies suggesting that higher doses of X-ray radiation may increase the risk of cancer. However, many common imaging tests use very low doses of radiation and pose only a minimal risk.

X-rays, CT scans, nuclear medicine scans and PET scans

There are several different types of medical imaging procedures that use ionising radiation. It can be difficult for patients to keep straight which types of medical imaging procedures involve risk and which do not.

CT scans, which use x-rays, take several detailed pictures of the inside of the body, such as the organs, bones, and blood vessels. The complexity of the scans introduces a bit more radiation than basic X-rays.

PET scans use a small amount of radioactive material this is either injected into the patient or ingested by the patient. A camera is then used that detects the radioactive material in the body. This radioactive material exposes the patient to some additional risk.

Ultrasound and MRI scans involve no ionising radiation and very minimal to no risk.

Risks of X-ray

The radiation used in X-ray scans may cause damage to the cells in your body. Although the radiation exposure is very minor and does not cause any serious damage, larger doses could cause cancer. The level of exposure to radiation depends on which type of medical imaging procedure a patient gets. For example, a simple chest x-ray, has a low dose and therefore a very small risk. On the other hand, CT scans, use higher doses of x-rays, and therefore have a higher risk. Your medical or dental provider are aware of the risks and benefits of x-rays and should balance the benefits of having the imaging with the risks involved. In most cases, the benefits of having the scans and being able to diagnose or treat a potentially dangerous medical condition outweigh the small risks of radiation.

What Can Xrays Detect