Answer to Question #12748 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"

Category: Medical and Dental Patient Issues — Pediatric Issues

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


My two-year-old son swallowed a button-battery so we took him to the hospital. The good news is the battery left him the next day by the natural way. My concern is that while in the hospital my son had two abdominal x rays and no shielding was placed over his plevis area. Everything happened so quickly and the technologist said shielding should not be used because it would interfere with the x ray. I am very sad that I did not protest. I am nervous because I noted my son s plevic area was in the x ray picture.

I have read some articles on the internet that suggest there is signficant risk. Other articles indicate there is no risk. I not sure what is true and what is not. Are there studies that have shown the level of radation which causes genetic damage or fertility? Is there a possibiliy of genetic damage or infertility due to my son's x rays? 


You do not need to feel sad. You did nothing wrong and your son will not have any effects from the x rays he received. In fact, he has probably received more radiation from naturally occurring radiation in the environment and certainly by the time he reaches puberty his radiation dose from naturally occurring radiation will be much more.

The technologist is correct that the use of pelvic shielding may have interfered with the x ray. In addition, if the gonads were not in the x-ray image, the dose to the testes would be very low and there would be no reason to use shielding. Regardless, your son will not experience any genetic effects to his offspring and this will have no effect on his fertility.

Although genetic effects have been seen in animal studies, they have not been seen in studies of humans who have been exposed such as the Japanese atomic bomb survivors. The dose to cause male sterility is 6 Gray (Gy) or 6,000 mGy to the testes. Extrapolating from animal studies, the dose to double the number of genetic mutations which could be transmitted to your son's children is between 3.4 Gy and 4.4 Gy to the testes. The dose to the testes from a pelvic exam would be on the order of a few tenths of a mGy or less. That is over 10,000 times less than the dose to cause sterility and the dose at which any genetic effects would occur.  

Rest easy that no harm has been done.

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 5 February 2019. 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.