There has been a lot of discussion about the safety of medical imaging procedures and how large of a dosage should be used. X-ray technology has become an indispensable tool for physicians to use when diagnosing illnesses. It is important to remember that we are exposed to radiation from space and other radioactive materials and processes around us. The human body is able to process and handle most of this residual radiation. According to radiologyinfo.com, the amount of radiation we are exposed to in a typical medical imaging procedure is equivalent to 10 days of natural exposure. The general concensus is that the benefits of medical imaging procedures greatly outweigh the potential risks.
The unit of measurement used in x-ray technology is the millisievert (mSv). They are also referred to as rem, rad, Sievert, Gray, or Roentgen. The dosage used in any procedure depends upon the density and radiation exposure necessary to get an accurate image. For this reason, there are standards set for different regions and organs of the body.
Medical imaging professionals receive special safety training and are tested periodically (usually monthly) for unhealthy dosages of radiation. Currently, the occupational limit should not exceed 5,000 millirems above the 300 millirems of natural source radiation plus any medical radiation received in their own procedures. The lifetime limit recommendations are the person’s age multiplied by 1,000 millirems. All of this may sound vague to the average person, but the radiology professional is typically monitored regularly and records are continuously kept accurate and current to avoid any potential issues. There are a variety of instruments and protective gear used such as lead aprons, thyroid collars, lead gloves, and protective eyewear.
Medical imaging procedures are an integral part of our ability to detect, diagnose, and treat life threatening diseases. As with anything that involves potential risks, it must be asked whether the benefits of procedures outweigh the potential risks.