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What Is Radiation Dosimetry?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Radiation dosimetry is the measurement of ionizing radiation like gamma rays and x-rays. This field is extremely broad. In a medical context, it can refer both to monitoring radiation exposure for patient safety, and to calibrating radiation doses in nuclear medicine. Practitioners of radiation dosimetry have college degrees and may receive special training in radiation and the handling of radioactive materials. Many medical schools have dosimetry programs.

One aspect of radiation dosimetry involves accurately measuring radiation exposure for health care providers. Technicians, nurses, doctors, and other personnel who work in environments where ionizing radiation is present need workplace protections. These include devices to measure output and determine how much radiation circulates as well as badges and monitors worn to measure overall exposure. Radiation dosimetry can identify problems with a machine that emits radiation so it can be fixed before it harms health care providers.

Hospitals and other facilities that use nuclear medicine can send badges and other monitoring devices to a lab, which will calculate exposure and return results. In the event an employee is exposed to dangerously high amounts of radiation, she may need to move to a different area, at least temporarily. Radiation dosimetry can also be useful for care providers responding to emergencies where ionizing radiation is present. It can help care providers prepare on the basis of what kinds of injuries to expect from the level of radiation known to be present.

Medical dosimetry is the application of this area of the sciences specifically to patient care. Patients with cancers and certain other diseases may need radiation therapy as part of their treatment. A dosimetrist works with the patient's care team to determine what kind of radiation to use, calculate the dose, and pinpoint the location. With highly accurate machines as well as surgical placement of radiation-emitting beads, it is possible to deliver a very low and very targeted dose to the patient.

Specialists in this area of radiation dosimetry rely heavily on computer programs to help them calculate doses and placements. The program can use medical imaging studies to reconstruct the patient's body and create very precise sets of coordinates. The dosimetrist works to determine the most effective dose, balancing concerns about radiation exposure with the need to deliver enough radiation to kill rogue cells. Many medical dosimetrists belong to professional organizations that may offer special certifications to their members. Patients can ask to see these certifications if they have concerns about the quality of their care.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
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