Radiation levels and safety
Most of us are exposed to some low-level radiation just by going about our daily lives, which is generally considered safe. Some imaging procedures provide additional exposure to radiation. For most people, occasional imaging procedures throughout their lifetime won’t be an issue, but doctors must assess the valuable medical information from these procedures against the minor increased risk that too much radiation may cause on a case by case basis.
Some imaging tests, such as MRI and ultrasound, involve no radiation, while others, such as X-rays, CT scans, mammograms and fluoroscopy do expose you to minimal amounts of radiation. The amount of radiation varies from test to test and depends on a number of other factors, including your weight, the number of views taken and the equipment.
We only perform imaging procedures for diagnostic use, thus many of our procedures need to be referred by a physician.
When conducting the exam we use appropriate radiation doses to provide high-quality images to help our radiologist develop an accurate report.
Here are a few examples of how we keep your radiation exposure to a minimum when you have a CT scan, X-ray or other test involving radiation:
- We work with your doctor to make sure your test is necessary and appropriate. If we have any questions about a procedure your doctor ordered, we may call him or her, and, when appropriate, we may suggest a way to get good test results with a lower radiation dose.
- We adhere to the regulations and codes of conduct as set out by The Radiological Society of South Africa.
- We use special protective equipment to cover your unprotected areas to avoid unnecessary exposure to radiation.
- We carefully adjust the amount of radiation to make it optimal for your weight and age, and we have special software that adjusts the dose to match the thickness of each section that is imaged on a CT scan.
Most medical imaging exams are generally safe during pregnancy. If you are pregnant, it is acceptable to have an imaging exam when your doctor considers it necessary to determine your future course of medical care.
Please inform our staff when making your booking if you suspect you might be pregnant.
Ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) procedures use radiation very different from x-rays. Ultrasound is commonly used during pregnancy, with no known cases of harm to an unborn baby from such a procedure. Though not used as often as ultrasound, the same is true of MRI.
Radiography, fluoroscopy, computed tomography (CT) and nuclear medicine imaging exams all use x-rays to produce images. X-rays are an example of ionizing radiation. This type of radiation can be harmful when delivered in high quantities, but such quantities are seldom reached in medical examinations. Therefore, the potential risk is very small.
Even so, it is important that your doctor and our radiographers know you are pregnant before an x-ray, CT or nuclear imaging examination is being considered. Being aware of your pregnancy can help your doctor select the most appropriate imaging exam for your condition and keep your exposure to radiation at levels as low as reasonably achievable to produce the necessary information.