Medical radiography is a broad term that covers several types of studies that require the visualization of the internal parts of the body using x-ray techniques. For the purposes of this page radiography means a technique for generating and recording an x-ray pattern for the purpose of providing the user with a static image(s) after termination of the exposure. It is differentiated from fluoroscopy, mammography, and computed tomography which are discussed elsewhere. Radiography may also be used during the planning of radiation therapy treatment. (links are to the pages in this section)
It is used to diagnose or treat patients by recording images of the internal structure of the body to assess the presence or absence of disease, foreign objects, and structural damage or anomaly.
During a radiographic procedure, an x-ray beam is passed through the body. A portion of the x-rays are absorbed or scattered by the internal structure and the remaining x-ray pattern is transmitted to a detector so that an image may be recorded for later evaluation. The recoding of the pattern may occur on film or through electronic means.
Radiography is used in many types of examinations and procedures where a record of a static image is desired. Some examples include
- Dental examination
- Verification of correct placement of surgical markers prior to invasive procedures
- Orthopedic evaluations
- Spot film or static recording during fluoroscopy
- Chiropractic examinations
Radiography is a type of x-ray procedure, and it carries the same types of risks as other x-ray procedures. The radiation dose the patient receives varies depending on the individual procedure, but is generally less than that received during fluoroscopy and computed tomography procedures.
The major risks associated with radiography are the small possibilities of
- developing a radiation-induced cancer or cataracts some time later in life, and
- causing a disturbance in the growth or development of an embryo or fetus (teratogenic defect) when performed on a pregnant patient or one of childbearing age.
When an individual has a medical need, the benefit of radiography far exceeds the small cancer risk associated with the procedure. Even when radiography is medically necessary, it should use the lowest possible exposure and the minimum number of images. In most cases many of the possible risks can be reduced or eliminated with proper shielding.