Radiographic examinations

Approximately 3.6 million radiographic examinations are performed in Finland each year, in addition to approximately 2.3 million ordinary dental imaging examinations and almost 400,000 panoramic dental imaging examinations. X-ray examinations of the mandibles and bones are the most common examinations. Even though the number of dental images taken is high, the dose per patient is small.

The highest amount of radiation is received from vascular examinations and diverse treatment procedures, such as opening blocked blood vessels. The dose caused by them may be up to hundreds of mSv per examination. The dose can also be high in CT scans. The table specifies in more detail the annual number of some examinations and radiation doses per examination.

When radiation doses to which patients are exposed due to diverse radiographic examinations are divided among all Finns, the average dose is approximately 0.5 mSv per year. It can be estimated that radiographic imaging activity continuing over decades would result in approximately 100 deaths from cancer in Finland a year. However, the risk to an individual is very small.  For example, a single chest X-ray causes the same radiation dose as received by a person living in the Helsinki metropolitan region in a detached house from indoor air radon during 2–3 weeks. The average radiation dose of all radiographic examinations per examination is approximately 0.6 mSv.

Number of specific radiographic examinations and average patient doses in Finland.

Examination

Examination volume

Effective dose, millisievert (mSv)

Dental X-ray imaging (ordinary)

2,300,000

0.01

Pulmonary

1,040,000

0.1

Mammography (radiographic imaging of the breast)

356,000

0.2*

Lumbar vertebrae

115,000

2.3

Abdominal computed tomography (CT scan)

25.500

12

Radiologic procedures (e.g. opening blood clots)

-

60 (3-450)

* In evaluating the effective dose of mammography, it has been taken into account that only women undergo the examination.

Mammography screening prevents breast cancer

Radiologic examinations are also used for preventing diseases. Regular radiologic examinations of the breast, mammography, aim to detect breast cancer already at an early stage of the disease. That makes it possible to treat it well. All women aged 50–59 are included in the scope of mammography screening. Many municipalities expand breast cancer screening by also including women aged 60–69.

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