Medical Imaging - What To Expect

radiologist reviewing images on computer

We are exposed to radiation from natural sources all the time. The average person receives an effective dose of about 3 mSv per year from naturally occurring radioactive material and cosmic radiation from outer space. The amount of radiation user in most examinations is very small and the benefits greatly outweigh the risk of harm.

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Inquiring about your X-ray Dose

Our radiation safety personnel (e.g. medical physicists, radiation protection/safety officer) will accept all patient inquiries concerning the amount of x-ray dose they received during a procedure.

Patient radiation dose calculation is based on many factors related to each specific x-ray procedure performed. Our reply to a request for the calculation of radiation dose received will take 1-2 days. The reply will also be forwarded to the patient’s referring physician (i.e. family doctor ordering the x-ray procedure) who will then provide the x-ray dose information to the patient making the request.

Our calculation of radiation dose is only an approximation. At best it has an accuracy of +/- 10-20%.

Ensuring your safety

As with other medical procedures, x-rays are safe when used with care. Radiologists and medical radiation technologists have been trained to use the minimum amount of radiation necessary to obtain a diagnosis.

The amount of radiation used in most examinations is very small and the benefits greatly outweigh the risk of harm. X-rays are produced only when the exposure switch is momentarily turned on. As with visible light, no radiation remains after the switch is turned off.

Minimizing your risks

If you have concerns about the amount of radiation you will receive from x-rays, discuss them with your doctor prior to your scheduled examination.

For females between ages 10-55, if you are pregnant, think you may be, or have had blood drawn recently for a pregnancy test, tell your doctor. Please also inform the radiologist, surgical services medical staff or the medical radiation technologist.

If you must have a diagnostic x-ray, tell your doctor or the technologist about any similar x-rays you have had recently.

What are X-rays and what do they do?

X-rays are a form of radiant energy, like light or radio waves. Unlike light, x-rays can penetrate the body, which allows a radiologist or technologist to produce images of internal structures. The radiologist, surgical services medical staff or technologist can view these images on film or on a computer monitor.

What is a radiologist?

A radiologist is a physician with specialized training to perform x-ray procedures and interprets x-ray images.

What are surgical services medical staff?

They are physicians, residents or fellows who, during a surgical procedure, operate x-ray devices to generate images of what is being surgically repaired.

What is a Medical Radiation Technologist?

A medical radiation technologist is a licensed medical professional that produces diagnostic images using various forms of radiation.

Measuring Radiation Dose

The scientific unit of measurement for radiation dose, commonly referred to as "effective dose", is the millisievert (mSv). Because different tissues and organs have varying sensitivity to radiation exposure, the actual dose to different parts of the body from an x-ray procedure varies. The term "effective dose" is used when referring to the dose averaged over the entire body.

For this procedure:

Your effective radiation dose:

Comparable to natural background radiation:

Routine Chest X-ray 0.1 mSv 12.5 days
Abdominal Region
Bone Mineral Density-Spine 0.013 mSv 1.58 days
Upper G.I 1.6 mSv 6 months
Barium enema 2 mSv 8 months
Routine Chest X-ray 0.1 mSv 12.5 days
Central Nervous System
CT Scan Head 2 mSv 8 months
Mammography 0.7 mSv 3 months
Pelvis (Hip)
Bone Mineral Density - Hip 0.013 mSv 1.58 days
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