Advantages & Disadvantages of X-Rays

X-rays are essential medical tools for doctors. However, the prevalence of new technology and the risks associated with X-rays have caused many health professionals to re-think the their use. X-rays are ionized forms of radiation that penetrate living tissue. Doctors found they could use X-rays and imaging technology to give a detailed view of a patient's skeletal system and some tissues. X-rays are still used today, however, alternative imaging technologies such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or Computed Tomography (CT) scans are now gaining popularity in the medical community.


One advantage of X-rays is that they are cheaper than similar medical procedures. If a patient requires a medical scan, an X-ray costs health insurance plans less than a MRI or a CT scan. It is also cheaper for a hospital or a doctor's office to maintain a X-ray machine than an MRI or CT scan machine.


One disadvantage of X-rays is that they do not give detailed images of the body. MRI or CT scans are excellent tools if the doctor is trying to find a medical issue with organs, bone, the brain, and tissues. X-rays do not give any sort of medical data for organs or tissues, only an image of bones. MRIs and CT scans can show far more bone detail than X-rays. For example, a CT scan is capable of creating a 3-D image of bone structures for a doctor while an X-ray creates a 2-D image sheet.

Ease of Use

An advantage to X-rays is that they are easier to use than MRIs or CT scans. Emergency rooms often have portable X-ray machines to help patients coming in. If a patient requires a MRI or CT scan, either an appointment must be set up or the patient must be transported to a hospital that has this technology readily available.

Radiation Exposure

Radiation exposure is probably the biggest concern patients have with X-rays 3. However, it should be noted that CT scans do utilize the same form of energy to create images. A recent report from New England Journal of Medicine stated that CT scans can also cause increased tissue damage and even cancer when a patient is overexposed over a period of time. MRIs utilize magnetic energy against hydrogen, an element that is predominate in the human body, to create an image. Overall, while X-rays do provide an excellent medical service, exposure to X-rays over a long period of time can lead to tissue damage.