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A knowledge resource for patients and caregivers
Exposure to ionizing radiation is a fact of our daily lives. We’re exposed to it from the sun, the soil and our surroundings. Plus, from time to time, we may be exposed to it as part of a medical examination, for example in the form of an X-ray.
There’s little we can do to reduce our exposure to naturally occurring radiation without disrupting our normal routine and lifestyle. When it comes to radiation exposure during medical examinations however, everyone has a role to play: equipment manufacturers, doctors and radiographers – the people that operate the devices – as well as the person being examined.
Manufacturers of medical imaging equipment take all possible steps to keep the effective dose from their devices as low as reasonably achievable while providing doctors with the most detailed information possible. To keep the exposure to radiation for both patients and medical staff to a minimum – and below their regulatory limits – manufacturers use the principle of “As Low As Reasonably Achievable” or ALARA when designing their equipment. There are some fundamental ways that help to achieve this: using the most dose-efficient components and technologies available; ensuring that optimum scan parameters for the respective patient and examination are used as well as shielding parts of the body that are not being examined.
In the hospital or medical practice, both the doctor and radiographer share the responsibility for reducing radiation dose. For the doctor, this means, for example, ensuring that the appropriate imaging examination is ordered and only when absolutely necessary and justified. For the radiographer, it means careful optimization of the radiation dose used during each procedure.
As a patient, or parent of a child being examined, you too can make a contribution to dose reduction by carefully following the instructions given to you by the radiographer. If you need regular medical check ups or treatment from different physicians, it’s advisable to keep your own record of X-rays or scans so you can provide your “imaging history” to other medical practitioners such as dentists. You’ll find more information on each of these fields under the respective section.
Manufacturers of medical imaging equipment take all possible steps to keep the effective dose from their devices as low as reasonably achievable while providing doctors with excellent image quality.
From deciding on the necessity of an image-based diagnosis to optimizing the conditions to obtain valid medical images, physicians and radiographers do all they can to keep exposure to radiation as low as possible.
When it comes to radiation exposure during medical examinations, there are a number of things that patients can do to help reduce exposure before, during and after the examination.
The effect of radiation on children, with their growing bodies and developing organs still growing, is different to that in adults and special considerations need to be taken into account with medical imaging.