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How harmful are radiations from the x-rays?

Q: My son has a rare blood disease that has a possibility of causing bone damage. He is given skeletal surveys every 3 months and has had 5 till date. He is only 16 months old and is scheduled for 2 more before his second birthday. That will be 7 over 2 years. I am concerned with the risk associated with the x-rays. The sessions last approximately 30-40 minutes a pop, imaging every bone including the pelvis and skull. Is this amount of radiation dangerous for him in his young life? After he turns 2, the x-rays will be lowered to twice a year. Will he be able to have children? Is he at a high risk for cancer?

A:X-rays are a form of radiant (electromagnetic) energy travelling as waves that can penetrate the body. During a single X-ray exposure, a patient is exposed to approximately 20 milliroentgens of radiation. We are exposed to radiation from natural sources all the time and an average person receives a dose of about 100 milliroentgens per year from naturally occurring radioactive materials in soil and cosmic (ultraviolet) radiation from outer space. As different tissues and organs have varying sensitivity to radiation exposure, the actual dose to different parts of the body from X-ray procedure varies. The decision to have a X-ray is a medical one and is based on the likelihood of benefit from the examination and the potential risk from radiation. For diagnostic procedures minimum amount of radiation necessary to obtain the needed results is used and the amount of radiation used in most examinations is very small and the benefits greatly outweigh the risk of harm. Higher dose exams such as computed tomography (CT) scans and those involving the use of contrast material (dyes) such as barium or iodine, the radiologist may want to consider the patient’s past history of exposure to X-rays. In case of frequent X-ray examinations, it is prudent to keep a record of X-ray history as this can help the doctor make an informed decision.

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