Information for Patients

GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT MEDICAL RADIATION
What is radiation?

This is the emission of energy as electromagnetic waves.

All radiation is found within the electromagnetic spectrum.

The electromagnetic spectrum has two main types of radiation namely non- ionizing and ionizing radiation.

Where to you find non-ionizing radiation?

Sources of non- ionizing radiation include cell phones, microwave ovens, ultraviolet rays, infrared rays from lamps, radiofrequency waves from TV and radio. These types of radiation do not change atomic, molecular or genetic structure. Non-ionizing radiation in high levels causes heating.

Where do you find ionizing radiation?

Ionizing radiation is found in cosmic rays from the sun, background radiation from the soil and in the environment. Several medical procedures use ionizing radiation such as include radiology, radiotherapy, nuclear medicine, cardiac catheterization laboratory dental and interventional procedures. Currently, the highest source of ionizing radiation is medical radiation.

What are the benefits of radiation in medicine?

Radiation is beneficial in medicine because it helps us to diagnose and treat many diseases. It improves both the level and quality of healthcare.

 

Why is there need for radiation protection?

Whereas radiation in medicine is beneficial there is a potential that it can cause harm and increase in the long term the risk of cancer and genetic disorders.

It is very important to balance between the benefit and risk whenever radiation is used which is known as the ALARA principle- As Low As Reasonably Achievable.

All medical procedures that use radiation should be appropriate or necessary for the clinical scenario known as justification.

WHAT SHOULD I AS A PATIENT NEED TO KNOW?

  • Never refuse an appropriate or justified radiological examination as the benefits outweigh the risks.
  • It is your right to be explained the reason for the procedure or examination, the preparation and process of the examination before undergoing any procedure
  • Do not insist on an X-ray if the doctor says it is not necessary.
  • Tell the doctor if you are, or might be pregnant.
  • Radiation health workers and facilities must be licensed by the relevant authorities
  • Request for protective shields for yourself when accompanying a patient or child into the X-ray examination room.
  • Some radiological examinations, such as Ultrasound and MRI, do not use ionizing radiation.
  • It is important to bring your previous X-ray when coming for any radiological examination for comparison and can sometimes avoid unnecessary repeats.

 

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

No radiation is not painful

There is no internationally prescribed “upper limit” of a radiation dose from medical procedures or number of examinations.

The important question to ask is: Is the procedure or examination justified?

Risks from ionizing-radiation can be classified into: immediate and long term. Immediate risk includes skin reddening (injury), hair loss and injury to the unborn baby.

Long term risk includes cancer and infertility.

Therefore it is important to perform a radiation-based examination or procedure only when it is necessary, and to use the minimal radiation dose possible for optimal diagnosis or therapy.

If the examination is required; yes you can undergo the procedure but with precautions.

The idea is to protect the unborn child from unnecessary radiation which the radiation health worker can advise on or you may consider alternative examinations like ultrasound and MRI with have no ionizing radiation. Please discuss with the doctor.

If the examination is justified (based on benefit and risk considerations) and there is no alternative examination (ultrasound and MRI); there should be no need of concern.

However children are more sensitive to radiation than adults and it is important to protect them from unnecessary radiation.

The actual dose of radiation you receive from nuclear medicine is quite low and stays in your body for a short time. Drinking plenty of fluids after your scan will help to eliminate the radioactive material from your system.

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