Disadvantages of X-Rays

Updated February 21, 2017

An X-ray is a type of electromagnetic radiation. The rays are used primarily in the medical sector to observe the inside of a part of the body that is not visible ordinarily. An X-ray helps detect the presence of many things ranging from diseased cells to bones to muscles. Particles from an X-ray machine, called photons, are directed at the human body, where they can record images; the images are then analysed by doctors.

Limitations on Images

Ian K. Robinson and Jianwei Miao presented information on the limitations of X-ray technology in a scholarly article titled "Three-Dimensional Coherent X-Ray Diffraction Microscopy" in the March 2003 edition of Materials Research Society. Robinson and Miao demonstrated that an X-ray is unable to offer real-space images. An X-ray is still a preferred method in medical science for investigating many of the contents of the human body; however, the images it offers are all flat and one-dimensional. This is a severe handicap when used in medical science because even after the medical practitioner takes X-rays, it is possible that he will still be unaware of many aspects of the problem. For instance, an X-ray can reveal the exact location of a wound such as a fracture; however, it cannot give any information into the depth of the wound, which is often the critical component for assessment.


Another scholarly piece titled "National Research Council (U.S.). Committee on the Review of Existing and Potential Standoff Explosives Detection Techniques" in Science in 2004 discusses the disadvantages of X-rays as a security apparatus. X-rays are used in certain settings, such as at airports, to detect explosives. The major disadvantage of this system is that when used in places such as airports, the X-ray machine is far from perfect. It is still possible for some explosive materials to go unnoticed, and the X-ray machine cannot reliably discern between organic and inorganic materials that it checks.

Destruction of Healthy Cells

The website of the National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse, which is based in Bethesda, Maryland, also has information on the damage caused by X-rays. According to the NKUDIC, X-rays have ionising materials in them. This means that when a person undergoes an X-ray, at least a few healthy cells will be destroyed in the process. As a result of the dangers of the destruction of healthy cells, pregnant women are advised not to undergo X-rays.

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Alexis Writing has many years of freelance writing experience. She has written for a variety of online destinations, including She holds a Bachelor of Arts in communication from the University of Rochester.