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