Answer to Question #12189 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"

Category: Radiation Effects — Effects on Tissues and Organs

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

Q

My dog received x rays of his hip and back leg in the veterinary clinic yesterday—four x rays in 30 minutes. While these x rays were being taken, my mother and I had no protection for our bodies. The veterinarian just left us alone in the room to hold our dog in position while he took the shot. We were right next to the x-ray machine (a kind of computerized radiography machine for pets), with my head and neck close to (but out of) the main beam, and my hands were very close to the main beam as I held my dog in position. I had no way of measuring my exposure, and I am very worried about the effects this exposure may have on our health and particularly on our eyes in the future. As we were always watching our dog throughout the whole process, some scattered x rays may have hit our eyes. Please help us assess the risk from our exposures—I am really worried about that.

A

Your and your mother's exposure while holding your dog would not be high enough to see health effects on your eyes or any other part of your body.

The highest exposure is in the primary beam, so your dog absorbed most of the radiation. The second highest exposure would be to the film or image receptor. Yes, there will be some scattered radiation, but nowhere near as much as in the primary beam. The reason that veterinary technicians ask owners to hold their pets instead of doing it themselves is because the exposure is small if one does it on rare occasion, but it would add up if the technicians did it multiple times each day over an entire career. This is why regulations in my state (Pennsylvania) say, "An individual may not be used routinely to hold image receptors or patients." And this is why parents are sometimes asked to hold their young children during radiographs at pediatric hospitals.

I hope your dog is doing well.

Kent Lambert, CHP, FHPS

Ask the Experts is posting answers using only SI (the International System of Units) in accordance with international practice. To convert these to traditional units we have prepared a conversion table. You can also view a diagram to help put the radiation information presented in this question and answer in perspective. Explanations of radiation terms can be found here.
Answer posted on 8 January 2018. 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.