Is there potential danger from MRIs, X-Rays & medical imaging devices?

Every procedure has risks, whether it’s a triple bypass, or getting your flu shot. Most medical procedures, though, are often more safe than the ride to your doctor’s office.

Which is why, technically speaking, yes there is potential danger from getting a medical imaging test done. As with most technical answers, however, further explanation can be given to show that in the long term, potential dangers from medical imaging devices are insignificant, and any methods to reduce them are used.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or MRI, is a painless radiology imaging procedure that uses no radiation, unlike X-rays.  While there are no known side effects of MRI scans, patients who have metallic medical devices, such as metal implants or pacemakers, or metallic jewelry cannot get MRIs.  The magnetism utilized by a MRI scan runs the risk of moving metal objects away from their original positions, causing discomfort and possibly injury.  Any questions about potentially harm causing metallic objects in or on the body should be brought up with the MRI staff so as to avoid any complications.

The benefits of a MRI outweigh the little risks.  The lack of radiation, a pain free procedure, and precise accuracy make MRIs a very safe medical imaging procedure.  If a patient has any concerns, a doctor can provide answers.

Unlike MRIs, however, X-ray imaging uses small doses of radiation to form images of bone structures and soft tissue.  The radiation of X-rays raise concerns in some who worry that cell mutation, and subsequently cancer, can be caused by using this imaging procedure.  The amount of radiation used in X-ray imaging, however, is very small, according to The Mayo Clinic.

The standard unit of measure for exposure is the Sievert, or Sv.  In X-rays, an even smaller unit, the millisievert, or mSv, is used.  The typical exposure levels given by X-rays are lower than 1 mSv.  One Sv, if absorbed all at once, will cause some illness.  8 Sv results in death.  The average person, however, absorbs around 3.65 mSv annually through normal activities, according to PBS.  Any risk associated with the exposure of cells to X-rays, therefore, is relatively low.

X-ray computed tomography, commonly referred to as CAT scans, also use low dose X-rays to produce images.  Single exposures to these low doses carry very little risk, but patients who get multiple scans over a period of time run the risk of building up their exposure levels.  GE Healthcare reports that the built up levels of exposure do raise the level of risk of harm, but this happens very rarely.  Physicians should determine whether multiple X-ray exposures are necessary, and will usually recommend a safer imaging technique.

X-ray and MRI imaging both have their associated risks, but as with most medicine, can be brought down to an acceptably safe level with the guidance of a medical professional.  So, to answer the long form answer to the original question, no.  There is very little risk associated with medical imaging, and even the most cautious patients should not be overly concerned about it.

If you’re looking for safe & responsible medical imaging services in the Louisiana area, come to Doctors Imaging. We’re radiologists concerned about quality patient care. Scheduling is easy, results are available on-site, our rates are below hospitals, and we accept every major insurance.

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