How dangerous is radiography?

What is the maximum dose of radiation someone can receive in a year and what are the risks of exceeding it?

In our country the situation is as follows: 1 in 3 X-ray examinations is unnecessary.

These are the words of radiologists intrigued by the attitude of doctors from other specialties who, without much hesitation, ask their patients to undergo such investigations very often.

The unit in which the dose of radiation reaching the human body is measured is mSV (millisievert). Experts say that the maximum permissible dose accumulated by the body in a year should be no more than 20mSv.

The amount of radiation we receive in a chest X-ray is 0.1-0.6 mSv. In the case of bone, X-rays are much more irradiating because the bone is denser and requires a higher dose of X-rays to show up correctly on the X-ray filter.

Dental X-rays are not as irradiating, but should be considered. Its dose is 0.02 mSv. Radioscopy is a more irradiating investigation, equivalent to 8-10 chest X-rays. A mammogram is equivalent to a chest X-ray, being measured at 1-2 mSv.

In the case of CT scans, things are much more complicated, as this is the most irradiating investigation in this group.

However, the information obtained from a CT scan of the chest, abdomen or pelvis has benefits that far outweigh the risks, as such investigations provide a wealth of information that can save a patient’s life.

The radiation dose to a body segment (chest, pelvis) is 4-8 mSv, while the dose to the whole body is as high as 12 mSv. Fortunately, a whole-body X-ray is rarely necessary, so very often only one body segment will be irradiated.

Radiologists believe that 25-30% of X-ray investigations currently performed worldwide are completely unnecessary.

You should be aware that information about the X-ray investigations you are having should be included in your observation form and on a separate document that you can take home with you.

With this observation sheet, patients will know if they have exceeded the accepted annual radiation limit.

Like anything else, excessive radiological investigations harm the human body. Starting at the genetic level, they damage DNA, causing mutations that can even lead to cancer.

Among other things, they affect the skin, the gonads, the organs that produce blood cells and the eyes.

Normally, the human body can tolerate a small amount of radiation without any problems. It is only if the maximum limit is exceeded that we can talk about the adverse effects that may occur.

The contraindications to radiological investigations are clear and standard worldwide: pregnant women, children and young people growing up.

If a pregnant woman is exposed to X-radiation, the effects may be more harmful to the foetus: miscarriage, malformations, mental retardation, various diseases that occur later in childhood (various blood cancers, abnormal development).

For this reason, you should always inform your doctor about a possible pregnancy. The endocrine glands are the most sensitive to radiation: thyroid, pituitary, hypothalamus, gonads along with the eyeballs and digestive tract.

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