Facts about X-rays

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Discovered by German physicist, W.C Rontgen in 1895, X- ray revolutionised modern science. Since then, X-rays which are electromagnetic waves possessing a high level of energy and able to penetrate tissues, have been utilised extensively for the progress of medicine.


  1. Rontgen received the first Nobel Prize in Physics in 1901 for discovering X-ray. However he did not patent his discovery in the belief that it should be used for the benefit of mankind.
  2. Medical X-rays are used in procedures such as radiography to detect bone damage and tumours, mammography to image breast structure, CT or computed tomography to produce cross sections of the body, fluoroscopy to visualize abnormalities within the body and radiation for cancer treatment.
  3. Injections of dyes are techniques whereby anomalies in the blood vessels and soft tissues can be detected by X-rays.
  4. Energy from X-rays which penetrates and resides within the body can cause biological radiation.  The ionizing nature of X-rays can restructure the medium such as tissue which it passes through. Frequent exposure can not only cause a debilitating effect on body cells but also implicate the DNA of the cells.
  5. The lifetime cancer risks from X-rays are dependent on several factors including the radiation dosage, gender and age of person exposed. There is a higher lifetime risks of cancer for those who take a higher dosage and undergo greater frequency of exposure.  The younger the age when an X-ray is taken has a correlating effect on lifetime cancer risk. As for gender, females face a higher risk as compared to males.
  6. X-ray personnel leave the room while taking X-rays as they are administering the process full-time and face a high level of exposure.
  7. CAT (Computer Axial Tomography) scans are a more sophisticated computer-aided method of taking of X-rays from multiple angles which is useful for soft tissue imaging.
  8. There are side effects from CAT scans which should be noted notwithstanding the benefits derived from such scans. According to the FDA, the effective dosage from CAT scans is within the range of 1 to 10 mSv as compared to Japanese survivors of the atomic bomb who received 5to 20 mSv.  (A millisievert is one of several ways to measure the dose of radiation.)
  9. In view of the inherent risks towards X-ray radiation exposure, the onus and responsibility lies on the patient to take precautions when taking an X-Ray or CAT scan.
  10. This includes keeping a medical history of all X-rays taken and ensuring medical personnel are aware of it, asking for alternative options and having full knowledge of the dosage and procedure.

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