Radiation in Medicine: Medical Imaging Procedures
- X-rays (including dental x-rays, chest x-rays, spine x-rays)
- CT or CAT (computed tomography) scans
- Medical imaging tests should be performed only when necessary.
- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends discussing the benefits and risks of medical imaging procedures with your doctor.
Benefits and Risks of Medical Imaging Procedures That Use Ionizing Radiation
- Obtain a better view of organs, blood vessels, tissues and bones.
- Determine whether surgery is a good treatment option.
- Guide medical procedures involving placement of catheters, stents, or other devices inside the body, locate tumors for treatment and locate blood clots or other blockages.
- Guide joint replacement options and treatment of fractures.
- A small increase in the likelihood that a person exposed to radiation will develop cancer later in life.
- Health effects that could occur after a large acute exposure to ionizing radiation such as skin reddening and hair loss.
- Possible allergic reactions associated with a contrast dye injected into the veins to better see body structures being examined.
How can you reduce your exposure to diagnostic ionizing radiation?
- Checking to see if you have had a similar test done recently that can provide them with the background information they need.
- Checking to see if a test that does not use ionizing radiation can provide similar information.
- Making certain the least possible amount of radiation needed to obtain a good quality image is used for your procedure.
- Providing protective lead shielding to prevent exposing other areas of the body to radiation.
What are the risks of medical imaging procedures for pregnant women?
- If you are pregnant, the doctor may decide that it would be best to cancel the medical imaging procedure, to postpone it, or to modify it to reduce the amount of radiation.
- Depending on your medical needs, and realizing that the risk is very small, the doctor may feel that it is best to proceed with using a medical imaging procedure as planned.
Are there special considerations for children?
- Use imaging examinations when the medical benefit outweighs the risk.
- Use the most appropriate imaging techniques, matched to the size of the child.
- Use alternative imaging methods (such as ultrasound or MRI) when possible.