Radiation dosimetry is the measurement, calculation and assessment of the absorbed doses and assigning those doses to individuals. It is the science and practice that attempts to quantitatively relate specific measures made in a radiation field to chemical and/or biological changes that the radiation would produce in a target.
Medical dosimetry is the calculation of absorbed dose and optimization of dose delivery in medical examinations and treatments. In general, radiation exposures from medical diagnostic examinations are low (especially in diagnostic uses). Doses may be also high (only for therapeutic uses), but in each case, they must be always justified by the benefits of accurate diagnosis of possible disease conditions or by benefits of accurate treatment. These doses include contributions from medical and dental diagnostic radiology (diagnostic X-rays), clinical nuclear medicine and radiation therapy. Medical dosimetry is often performed by a professional health physicist with specialized training in that field. In order to plan the delivery of radiation therapy, the radiation produced by the sources is usually characterized with percentage depth dose curves and dose profiles measured by a medical physicist.
The medical use of ionizing radiation remains a rapidly changing field. In any case, usefulness of ionizing radiation must be balanced with its hazards. Nowadays a compromise was found and most of uses of radiation are optimized. Today it is almost unbelievable that x-rays was, at one time, used to find the right pair of shoes (i.e. shoe-fitting fluoroscopy). Measurements made in recent years indicate that the doses to the feet were in the range 0.07 – 0.14 Gy for a 20 second exposure. This practice was halted when the risks of ionizing radiation were better understood.
See also: Medical Exposures
Examples of Medical Exposures
In the following points we try to express enormous ranges of radiation exposure as well as a few doses from medical sources.
- 1 µSv – Eating one banana
- 1 µSv – Extremity (hand, foot, etc.) X-ray
- 5 µSv – Dental X-ray
- 10 µSv – Average daily dose received from natural background
- 40 µSv – A 5-hour airplane flight
- 100 µSv – Chest X-ray
- 600 µSv – mammogram
- 1 000 µSv – Dose limit for individual members of the public, total effective dose per annum
- 3 650 µSv – Average yearly dose received from natural background
- 5 800 µSv – Chest CT scan
- 10 000 µSv – Average yearly dose received from natural background in Ramsar, Iran
- 20 000 µSv – single full-body CT scan
- 80 000 µSv – The annual local dose to localized spots at the bifurcations of segmental bronchi in the lungs caused by smoking cigarettes (1.5 packs/day).
- 175 000 µSv – Annual dose from natural radiation on a monazite beach near Guarapari, Brazil.
- 5 000 000 µSv – Dose that kills a human with a 50% risk within 30 days (LD50/30), if the dose is received over a very short duration.
As can be seen, low-level doses are common for everyday life.