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How Many X-Rays Are Safe in a Lifetime?

Medical imaging represents the pinnacle of human achievement in science, technology, and medicine. However, have you ever pondered the safe lifetime limit for X-rays and scans? The practice of sending radiation through the body to obtain images of the inside of the body has assisted doctors in accurately determining the severity of disorders. The three most common imaging methods that medical practitioners incorporate to examine and analyze a patient’s body include X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans. Unfortunately, the radiation these imaging techniques expose us to can harm our health.

When Did Medical Examiners Start Using X-rays?

As word of the invention of the X-ray swiftly spread in 1895, medical professionals began using X-rays to observe inside wounds, fractured bones, and even foreign objects in surprising detail. The most well-known instance of this enthusiasm was the Foot-O-Scope shoe-fitting device, which dazzled patients by showing them the bones in their feet. 

Safety concerns were overshadowed by excitement for the new technology, leading to false claims that X-rays had miraculous curative properties while also being used as a marketing gimmick. Strong safety measures for use in hospital settings have developed due to the evident physical impacts of X-rays over time.

X-Ray, CT Scan, And MRI: How Do They Work?

CT scans employ a similar approach as an X-ray with computer assistance. They provide cross-sectional views of body parts and organs, unlike the pictures made by a standard X-ray. The radiation a CT scan exposes the body to is damaging. While a magnetic field and radio waves used in MRI scans create images of the inside anatomy of the body, the scan is carried out by temporarily applying a magnetic field to the subject’s body. 

The magnetic field is produced when an electric current runs through coiled wires all over the body. Radio waves are then sent and received by the transmitter or receiver. Any region of the body can be scanned using an MRI scan without any risk of pain since there is no radiation involved.

On the other hand, an X-ray produces black-and-white images of the inside of the body. A dye or contrast medium made of iodine or barium is injected into the body to obtain a high-quality image of the tissues. When X-rays penetrate the body, they could harm our health due to radiation exposure.

Are X-Rays A Boon or A Bane?

We are all exposed to the natural radiation from the sun, minerals, organic matter, and cosmic rays around us. Radiation exposure is higher for people living at high elevations than those who live at sea level. 

Yet it is crucial to consider the amount of danger of artificial radiation through X-rays. The radiation dosage from a typical chest X-ray is equivalent to 10 days of background radiation from natural sources. It is crucial to reduce the danger and type of exposure. X-ray imaging is a potent diagnostic tool when used safely and sensibly in modern medicine.

An individual chest X-ray exposes our body to 0.01.4 mSv of radiation. It equates to three days’ worth of radiation from natural sources. Our body is exposed to 0.7 mSv of radiation during an abdominal X-ray, equaling 4 months of radiation exposure from natural sources. Therefore, the main danger of X-ray exposure is tissue damage to living cells. 

High-level radiation exposures are frequently associated with cancer, chromosome alterations, congenital disorders, and infant death rates, even though the body can heal damage to cells. Repeated exposure causes the skin to become inflamed, look burnt, and start peeling; many persons with high exposure endure excruciating pain and quickly pass away from aggressive cancers.

Prevalence of X-Rays in Medical Science

X-rays, however, allow doctors to view inside images of the body, revealing comprehensive information about disease or injury that might be impossible to detect without invasive surgery. X-rays can provide medical professionals with still digital radiography or fluid (fluoroscopy) inside body images, assisting in the diagnosis process. Doctors can detect the precise position of a bone break, gunshot, or other foreign objects for quick treatment and surgeries. X-rays help doctors install medical equipment into patients’ bodies, particularly when it comes to heart devices.

How Safe is Radiation?

The type of test, the area of the body that is exposed, and the subject’s body size, age, and gender are just a few factors that affect how much radiation they are exposed to. Ionizing radiation is high-energy wavelengths or particles that may penetrate tissue to reveal the body’s internal organs and structures. 

It is the radiation you receive via x-ray, CT, and nuclear imaging. Ionizing radiation can damage DNA, and while your cells usually repair most of the damage, they occasionally make mistakes and leave a few places that do not repair. Genetic mutations are the end outcome, which may someday lead to cancer. Radiation specialists believe the risk of cancer will most likely increase very slightly if imaging tests do so. Yet, it is tough to determine how much radiation exposure from imaging examinations may raise a person’s chance of developing cancer. 

Most research on radiation and cancer risk has focused on individuals who have received high radiation doses, like uranium miners and atomic bomb survivors. However, many studies suggest children should be shielded from radiation as much as possible because they are more sensitive to it.

Imaging examinations that employ radiation should only be performed when necessary, as radiation exposure from all sources can mount up throughout a lifetime and increase the chance of developing cancer. However, if there is a good reason to think that an x-ray, CT scan, or nuclear medicine scan (such as a PET scan) is the best technique to screen for cancer or other disorders, the person will probably benefit more from the scan than the minimal radiation exposure could harm them. 

There are initiatives in the medical profession to ensure doctors utilize X-ray equipment sparingly to reduce the risk of overexposure. Here’s how alternatives and required usage can help decrease the dangers caused by X-rays:

  • Healthcare professionals must keep accurate records of each patient’s X-ray procedures.
  • Medical personnel can decide if a procedure is in a patient’s best interest by having up-to-date knowledge of that patient’s history of exposure.
  • Additional dangers associated with X-rays are eliminated by checking for pregnancy in patients and protecting organs particularly sensitive to radiation exposure, such as the digestive and reproductive systems.
  • Whenever possible, ultrasound technology is employed when testing pregnant ladies.
  • Radiologic technologists, the individuals who perform X-rays, additionally protect patients with lead aprons during the process and wear dosimetry badges to track daily exposure.
  • Radiologic technologists must undergo extensive study and training in equipment and procedures before becoming certified by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists since safety precautions apply to both patients and the technologists themselves.

Radiation exposure in high doses can result in significant tissue damage and raise a person’s chance of later acquiring cancer. Although it is vital to keep this risk in context, the small radiation doses used for imaging tests may marginally raise a person’s risk of developing cancer. The best recommendation currently is to have the necessary imaging exams and reduce your exposure to all radiation sources. Moreover, when deciding whether or not you require any extra x-ray-based medical exam preparation consult your doctor about this is necessary!

At Canadian Diagnostic Network, we use the best methods for various imaging and scans to provide our patients with the safest and fastest care. Request an appointment today or visit our website to know more.

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