CT Scan Radiation Danger

MRI, CT, X-RAYS, and Radiation Exposure in Medicine

The value and usage of MRI in medical care has continued to increase because of its ever increasing ability to safely study the human body and because MRI has continued to allow decreased usage of radiation producing medical tests such as x-rays, CT, and nuclear medicine studies.

MRI and CT are often considered to be competing with each other because they give sometimes similar highly detailed images of the human body. However CT produces images with x-ray radiation and is currently the single largest source of manmade radiation exposure. MRI uses no radiation.

MRI uses magnetic fields instead of radiation to produce detailed pictures of the human body. MRI pictures are produced by briefly tilting the molecules of the human body which briefly makes those molecules tiny radio antennas that form weak radio waves that are measured by the MRI machine. The MRI magnets do not change or injure the molecules of the human body.

CT, x-ray machines, and nuclear medicine pass small amounts of radiation through the human body. Different molecules in the human body absorb different amounts of this radiation, allowing a picture of the body to be formed by the resulting “shadow” caused by radiation absorption within the human body. This radiation can cause changes within the molecules of the human body that are usually safe and temporary but can occasionally cause permanent injury or cancer.

We are all living longer than our ancestors and will need more and more medical care and medical tests as we age. It is impossible to predict how many CT scans, x-rays, or MRI’s we will need in our lifetimes, though those numbers will continue to increase.

There are times when MRI is superior to other medical tests. There are times when MRI can give about the same amount of information as other medical tests. It makes sense to use non-radiation producing MRI whenever possible to reduce our lifetime exposure to radiation.