What is Ionizing Radiation?

Question

You further mentioned, MRIs provide equal or superior imaging without the ionizing radiation. Why is it better without ionizing, and what can ionizing radiation do to a person or child?

Dr. Greene's Answer

Ionizing radiation is radiation that produces ions when it interacts with matter — it changes the structure of atoms. This is important for health reasons because when ionizing radiation hits the DNA in our bodies, our genetic blueprints, it can ionize the atoms in the DNA molecules — leading to the death of that cell, or to changes that might result in cancer. X-rays and gamma rays are examples of ionizing radiation.

Read More From This Series:
CT Scan Defined
CT Scan, Ultrasound or MRI?
CT Scan Safety
CT Scans and Radiation Exposure
CT Scan Risks
Higher Risks in Children
Who Should Receive a CT Scan?
X-Ray or a CT Scan?
Alternatives to a CT Scan
When Should a CT Scan be Performed?
Important Tip to Reduce to Radiation
Questions to Ask before Every CT Scan
Other Radiation Exposures
Measures That Radiologists Should Adhere to When Administering a CT Scan
CT Scans and Cancer
When are MRIs not Practical?
What is Ionizing Radiation?
Who are Radiologists?

February 14, 2008
Published on: March 11, 2003
About the Author
Photo of Alan Greene MD
Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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