Advantages & Disadvantages of X-Rays

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X-rays are essential medical tools for doctors. However, the prevalence of new technology and the risks associated with X-rays have caused many health professionals to re-think the their use. X-rays are ionized forms of radiation that penetrate living tissue. Doctors found they could use X-rays and imaging technology to give a detailed view of a patient's skeletal system and some tissues. X-rays are still used today, however, alternative imaging technologies such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or Computed Tomography (CT) scans are now gaining popularity in the medical community.

X-rays have advantages and disadvantages.
X-rays have advantages and disadvantages. (Image: Photos.com/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

Costs

One advantage of X-rays is that they are cheaper than similar medical procedures. If a patient requires a medical scan, an X-ray costs health insurance plans less than a MRI or a CT scan. It is also cheaper for a hospital or a doctor's office to maintain a X-ray machine than an MRI or CT scan machine.

It is cheaper for a hospital or a doctor's office to maintain a X-ray machine than an MRI or CT scan machine.
It is cheaper for a hospital or a doctor's office to maintain a X-ray machine than an MRI or CT scan machine. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Results

One disadvantage of X-rays is that they do not give detailed images of the body. MRI or CT scans are excellent tools if the doctor is trying to find a medical issue with organs, bone, the brain, and tissues. X-rays do not give any sort of medical data for organs or tissues, only an image of bones. MRIs and CT scans can show far more bone detail than X-rays. For example, a CT scan is capable of creating a 3-D image of bone structures for a doctor while an X-ray creates a 2-D image sheet.

MRIs and CT scans can show far more bone detail than X-rays.
MRIs and CT scans can show far more bone detail than X-rays. (Image: Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Ease of Use

An advantage to X-rays is that they are easier to use than MRIs or CT scans. Emergency rooms often have portable X-ray machines to help patients coming in. If a patient requires a MRI or CT scan, either an appointment must be set up or the patient must be transported to a hospital that has this technology readily available.

If a patient requires a MRI or CT scan, either an appointment must be set up or the patient must be transported to a hospital that has this technology readily available.
If a patient requires a MRI or CT scan, either an appointment must be set up or the patient must be transported to a hospital that has this technology readily available. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Radiation Exposure

Radiation exposure is probably the biggest concern patients have with X-rays. However, it should be noted that CT scans do utilize the same form of energy to create images. A recent report from New England Journal of Medicine stated that CT scans can also cause increased tissue damage and even cancer when a patient is overexposed over a period of time. MRIs utilize magnetic energy against hydrogen, an element that is predominate in the human body, to create an image. Overall, while X-rays do provide an excellent medical service, exposure to X-rays over a long period of time can lead to tissue damage.

Exposure to X-rays over a long period of time can lead to tissue damage.
Exposure to X-rays over a long period of time can lead to tissue damage. (Image: Photos.com/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

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