Frequent Questions

Can I minimize unnecessary medical x-ray radiation exposure?

Consumers have an important role in reducing radiation risks from medical x-rays. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends these steps:

  • Ask your health care provider how an x-ray will help. How will an x-ray, CT scan, or fluoroscopy procedure help find out what is wrong or determine treatment? Ask if there are other procedures that might be lower risk but still allow for good assessment or treatment.
  • Don't refuse an x-ray. If your health care provider explains why an x-ray is medically needed, then do not refuse the test. The risk of not having a needed x-ray is greater than the risk from radiation.
  • Don't insist on an x-ray. If your health care provider explains there is no need for an x-ray, then do not demand one.
  • Tell the x-ray technologist in advance if you are, or might be, pregnant.
  • Ask if a protective shield can be used. If you or your children are getting an x-ray, ask whether a lead apron or other shield should be used.
  • Ask your dentist if he/she uses the faster (E or F) speed film for X-rays. It costs about the same as the conventional D speed film and offers similar benefits with a lower radiation dose. Using digital imaging detectors instead of film further reduces radiation dose.
  • Know your X-ray history. Keep a list of your imaging records, including dental x-rays. When an x-ray is taken, fill out the card with the date and type of exam, referring physician, and facility and address where the images are kept. Show the card to your health care professionals to avoid unnecessary duplication of X-rays of the same body part. Keep a record card for everyone in your family.
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