When x-rays entered the mainstream medicine in the early 20th century, doctors were suddenly able to diagnose and study patients on a whole new level. The ability to see inside the body without surgery continues to be an important method for finding problems in the soft tissue, bones and teeth. It has and continues to save many lives.
There are also concerns. As medical and scientific knowledge has progressed, concerns over the safety of medical x-rays have come to the fore. Many people now wonder whether medical x-rays are worth the risk, and if so, under what circumstances. To make matters worse, the internet is full of every kind of misinformation about the nature and safety of medical x-rays.
- 1. Medical x-rays expose human beings to dangerous levels of radiation
- The earth, other planets, stars, and other elements emit various levels of radiation. This doesn’t mean that radiation is nothing to worry about; but it is part of the natural environment. Even at sea level, human beings absorb small amounts of radiation every day. When we fly, or live at higher altitudes, our exposure to radiation is greater.
Radiation is measured as milliSieverts (mSv). Everybody on earth absorbs a small dose of radiation each year, equivalent to about 2 mSv. Pilots and flight attendants might be exposed to a dose of about 4 mSv per year. A dangerous exposure to radiation is considered to be around 200 mSv.
Given these facts, we can safely say that the average medical x-ray, which delivers a dose of .008 to 1 mSv, may not be as threatening as commonly believed. More uncommon procedures, such as cerebral or gastrointestinal x-rays, deliver between 1 and 7 mSv. A full-body CT scan delivers a dose of more than 10 mSv, and multiple CT scans in one session can sometimes ex-pose a patient to more than 50 mSv.
According to these figures, the upper extremes of medical x-ray procedures are still less than a quarter of what is considered to be dangerous exposure to radiation. Doctors and radiologists take patient safety seriously and will always consider an individual’s unique medical history be-fore recommending x-ray procedures.
- 2. Medical x-rays have serious affects on fertility and pregnancy
- Many couples who are trying to conceive worry about possible interference from x-rays, while couples who have conceived are especially cautious. They don’t want to do anything that will put the fetus in harm’s way. These worries are entirely understandable, but it’s good to address them.
In terms of fertility, only serious amounts of radiation could lower fertility in any way. In terms of pregnancy, most common x-ray procedures are perfectly safe and will not affect the fetus at all. When a doctor recommends an x-ray to a pregnant woman, it’s safe. But it’s always good to confirm this fact with the doctor for extra peace of mind.
Medical x-rays should be used judiciously, as they do produce radiation. However, the levels of radiation produced are generally very low, and science does not show them to be harmful. Pa-tients can generally undergo x-rays with confidence; if there’s any doubt, always clear it up with your doctor! If you have questions about x-rays or other aspects of urgent care, please feel free to contact us or visit our clinic. Thanks for reading!