Are x-rays and CT Scans Safe

by Your ER Doc on August 1, 2011

? When a patient needs imaging to diagnose medical problems and plan treatment, doctors agree that the benefits of radiation exposure outweigh its dangers. The risk of radiation is not zero, but let’s put it in perspective. We’re constantly exposed to background radiation. The American College of Radiology has determined that the radiation exposure in a chest x-ray is about the same as ten days of natural background exposure. A mammogram equals about seven weeks.

The risk of plain xray imaging is therefore considered low to very low, but the relative exposure is much higher for CT scans. CT of the abdomen produces the equivalent of about five years of background exposure. Whether this risk is warranted depends on the situation.

Remember, radiation exposure adds up. It’s a good idea to keep your own x-ray history and share it with your doctor.

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