How Do I Know If Radiation Is Necessary?

By Alyssa Speicher July 30, 2017

Patients are often concerned about receiving radiation. I’ll even admit it, the word “radiation” is a little intimidating. The radiation we use won’t make you glow in the dark and it won’t hurt you in small doses, but it’s not good for you to receive a lot of it. That’s why at UVA, we strive to protect you from unnecessary exposure to radiation. Read on to learn more about what is necessary and unnecessary when it comes to radiation.


Some medical imaging exams use small doses of radiation to noninvasively image internal parts of your body. Exposure to too much radiation over time could be bad for you, but sometimes small doses are necessary for your well-being.

Images from exams that use radiation, such as x-ray, CT, or nuclear imaging exams, help your radiologist see what is happening inside of you so that they can make an accurate diagnosis and recommend the next steps in your care. An accurate diagnosis is crucial to the quality of your health care and your well-being for many reasons—the most obvious being that it informs how doctors treat you in order to properly treat your condition. Good medical images can save lives.

Doctors in the Reading Room

Since the right images are so important to your care, the vast benefits of necessary radiation far outweigh any slight risks. Almost always, when your doctor suggests you have a medical imaging exam that uses radiation, that radiation is necessary. You can always ask your doctor if the test is truly vital for the quality of your care.

Although the radiation you receive in appropriate medical imaging exams is necessary, you can be exposed to unnecessary radiation. “Unnecessary radiation” refers to any radiation that doesn’t benefit the results of your images, and you could be exposed to it due to a number of different reasons.

At UVA Radiology and Medical Imaging, we work hard to protect you from any unnecessary radiation because, even if small amounts of radiation will not hurt you over time, you should never receive more radiation than you need. More below about potential sources of unnecessary radiation and what UVA is actively doing to stop them:

(Text only version)

Unnecessary Radiation Exposure InfographicTo learn more about radiation safety, visit this website from the American College of Radiology and the Radiological Society of North America, and you can read this article to learn more about what the greater radiology community is doing to reduce levels of radiation exposure!





Infographic Text: Sources of Unnecessary Radiation Exposure and How UVA Fights Unnecessary Radiation
Potential Sources of Unnecessary Radiation:
  • Used higher dosage than necessary or faulty/unsafe equipment.
  • Receiving a radiation-producing exam when an MRI or ultrasound would’ve been sufficient.
  • Repeating an exam that you’ve had before.
  • Incorrect imaging or unclear images that lead to repeat scanning.
  • Standing at unsafe proximity to a radiation-producing machine.
How UVA Fights Unnecessary Radiation:
  • In-house, licensed state inspectors regularly monitor and test all radiation equipment to ensure patient and staff safety.
  • Our doctors work with your physician to determine what kind of testing is best for your case and your care.
  • We work with your doctor to obtain an accurate copy of your medical imaging history to avoid repeating exams.
  • Our technologists are experts in patient positioning and taking the correct image the first time.
  • UVA limits this kind of exposure by following accreditation guidelines and providing protection near radiation equipment.
UVA’s Department of Radiology and Medical Imaging is accredited by the American College of Radiology.

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