Answer to Question #10543 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"

Category: Medical and Dental Patient Issues — Diagnostic X Ray and CT

The following question was answered by an expert in the appropriate field:

Four days ago my doctor ordered many x rays: two chest, more than eight of my ankles and feet, two lower spine, two hips, and two abdominal. All of these were done in the same day. I told the technician that this was too many and he said all radiation was dangerous yet sometimes necessary. Some x rays were repeated as the images were not good enough. Is this something I will regret during the rest of my life? I have had trouble sleeping and concentrating. I am very worried. The doctor simply said I should not worry. Would you please help?

You should not regret having these procedures done.  The radiation dose you received was relatively low. Let’s go over the numbers and then put them in perspective.

Procedure Effective Dose (mSv)* Number Performed Total Dose (mSv)
Chest (PA and Lat)
0.06 1 0.06
Ankles/Feet 0.005 8
Lumbar Spine (AP)
0.7 1 0.7
Lumbar Spine (Lat)
0.3 1 0.3
Hip (AP)
0.7 1 0.7
Hip 0.83 1 0.83
Abdomen (AP) 0.7 1 0.7
Abdomen 0.53 1 0.53
Total 3.86
Based on this, your total effective dose is about 4 millisieverts (mSv). This is just a little bit more than the average annual background radiation dose from all natural sources (3 mSv). The Health Physics Society’s position of radiation risk states, “below 50–100 mSv, risks of health effects are either too small to be observed or are nonexistent.” There is one more thing you need to remember and that is that you received a benefit from these procedures. These x rays helped your doctor diagnose your medical condition. In most cases, the benefits of diagnostic imaging procedures far outweigh the risks.

*Dose information from

Kent Lambert, CHP
Answer posted on 6 March 2013. The information posted on this web page is intended as general reference information only. Specific facts and circumstances may affect the applicability of concepts, materials, and information described herein. The information provided is not a substitute for professional advice and should not be relied upon in the absence of such professional advice. To the best of our knowledge, answers are correct at the time they are posted. Be advised that over time, requirements could change, new data could be made available, and Internet links could change, affecting the correctness of the answers. Answers are the professional opinions of the expert responding to each question; they do not necessarily represent the position of the Health Physics Society.