April 11, 2024

Which Imaging Has The Most Radiation?

Doctor looking at imaging scans

Which Imaging Has the Most Radiation?

Medical imaging procedures provide detailed pictures essential for diagnosing and monitoring health conditions. Some of these scans involve exposure to small amounts of radiation required to capture the images.

If your doctor says they want you to have imaging done, you may wonder, “Which imaging has the most radiation?” This article addresses the amounts of radiation from different procedures.

Understanding Radiation

Radiation is a type of energy that can pass through objects. The two kinds used in medical imaging are ionizing radiation and non-ionizing radiation.

Ionizing radiation frees electrons from atoms, creating ions. If it exceeds specific amounts, ionizing radiation can damage tissue. This type of radiation is used safely in common imaging procedures like X-rays and CT scans.

Non-ionizing radiation uses less energy and doesn’t free electrons from atoms. It’s generated in ultrasound scans and MRIs.

It’s also notable that radiation is always present in the environment, whether from natural sources (like cosmic radiation) or manufactured items like electronic devices and even ceramic and granite tiles. So, while limiting your exposure to additional radiation is prudent, it’s a type of energy that the human body is familiar with and generally not adversely affected by.

How Much Radiation Will My Imaging Procedure Expose Me To?

It’s a good idea to be an informed consumer of medical services. You’re entitled to know the details of any procedure your doctor recommends.

However, you should be aware that using devices that emit radiation in medical settings is highly regulated to protect patients from unnecessary risks. Doctors carefully consider the need for an imaging procedure considering the radiation exposure and only order a scan when the benefits outweigh the risks.

Approximate Radiation Doses from Imaging Procedures

The actual amount of radiation exposure from an imaging procedure varies based on factors like the type of scan, your size, the type of machine used, and how sensitive the targeted tissue is. However, the table below provides approximate values (in millisieverts) for the most common scans.

Procedure Average effective dose (mSv)       Reported range (mSv)
Bone density test* 0.001 0.00–0.035
X-ray, arm, or leg 0.001 0.0002–0.1
X-ray, panoramic dental 0.01 0.007–0.09
X-ray, chest 0.1 0.05–0.24
X-ray, abdominal 0.7 0.04–1.1
Mammogram 0.4 0.10–0.6
X-ray, lumbar spine 1.5 0.5–1.8
CT, head 2 0.9–4
CT, cardiac for calcium scoring          3 1.0–12
Nuclear imaging, bone scan 6.3 Not Available
CT, spine 6 1.5–10
CT, pelvis 6 3.3–10
CT, chest 7 4.0–18
CT, abdomen 8 3.5–25
CT, colonoscopy 10 4.0–13.2
CT, angiogram 16 5.0–32
CT, whole body variable 20 or more

* Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, or DXA.

Talk with Your Baptist Health Doctor About Imaging and Radiation Exposure

The energy used in various imaging procedures is carefully monitored and managed, minimizing potential adverse effects. However, if you have questions or concerns, you shouldn’t hesitate to talk with your doctor about a scheduled scan.

You can also learn more about our imaging and diagnostics services at your convenience.

Learn More.