Radiation Exposure Safety in Orthopaedics

Bradford S. Waddell, MD; Jeffrey Martus, MD; Paul Zemaitis, MPH; and William J. Robb III, MD

Since Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen revealed the power of cathode rays and X-rays in 1895, physicians and surgeons have expanded the use of X-rays as a valuable clinical tool. Today, X-rays are used in single frame radiographs, computed tomography (CT), radiotherapy, and real-time fluoroscopy. Each of these modalities has improved accuracy in diagnosing clinical conditions, locating foreign bodies, allowing placement of percutaneous devices, and, in the case of radiotherapy, treating diseases.

In the early 20th century, scientists like Hermann Muller began to show the harmful, long-lasting effects of X-ray radiation. His 1926 paper outlined the potential for deleterious mutational effects on DNA. It has become evident that X-ray radiation can cause a host of secondary diseases, including malignancy, burns, and cataracts.

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