View Full Version : Refusing x-rays

11-15-2008, 08:09 PM
Hi all. Thought I would get some feedback about the topic of x-rays and long term effects. Each year I have to go back for x-rays to check and make sure my hardware is still intact. Plus I had all the x-rays before and right after my surgery (not to mention the chest x-rays every day for the first week after my surgery). I recently found out my father's lymphoma has returned (he was first diagnosed last year), and my mother has a conditon called lymphatoid papalosis, which is kind of like a form of skin lymphoma, but she has not had to be treated for it. The oncologist said my sister and I are at high risk b/c both our parents have lymphoma, or forms of it. It got me thinking that I've also had all these x-rays over the years and maybe I should only get the x-rays every 2 or 3 years, or if I fall, or am in pain.

I know I will have to discuss it with my surgeon, but I am wondering if at a certain point, anyone has just refused them after a few years post op.

11-15-2008, 10:36 PM

when my son finished his orthodontal work just before his surgery 1 1/2 years ago they wanted to take x-rays. I refused to let them feeling it unnecessary and also with a concern for the number of x-rays he has and will be subjected to because of his spine. As far as his back is concerned I am pretty sure his surgeon said that after a time (forget the exact schedule) he will need x-rays only every 5 years. That is just our experience so I would consult your surgeon too.


11-16-2008, 08:29 AM
I refused x-rays on my daughter once and boy did it stir up some issues! Jamie was in a brace at the time and I knew she wasn't wearing it enough to make a difference. When we went back to the doctor for a follow-up they told me she needed to be x-rayed and I said no x-rays today. The nurse's face dropped. I explained that she just had several x-rays done two weeks ago and she hasn't worn her brace enough to warrant more x-rays to see if the brace was working. She told me she never had anyone say no to x-rays. (Sad, I know, because this means no other parent at that hospital has ever spoken up for their child, which I find hard to believe.) She told me she'd have to ask the doctor if that was okay! (She's my kid, but the doctor has all the say, right?) She came back in a huff and said the doctor okay'd it for now but would like to discuss it in the examine room. We did discuss it, and the doctor totally agreed with me!

Jamie was x-rayed on a regular basis for the first year or so because of issues above her fusion. She will be 4 years post-op next month and was told she doesn't need to be seen/x-rayed for two years. Each doctor is different, so like Ramona said, check with your doctor. Be sure to explain your reasoning.

Mary Lou

11-16-2008, 09:31 AM
I just want to say that I, too, am concerned about the number of x-rays these kids are subjected to (my son is now just beginning orthodontal work on his teeth....more x-rays - ugh!)

While most of the x-rays David has had so far (both spine and teeth) seem to be necessary, let me say that if, at any time, there is an x-ray that I feel is unnecessary - or that we can do without - I WILL speak up. Like Mary Lou said, he's MY child - so I have the final say!

11-16-2008, 11:57 AM
It's interesting that you bring this up because I've had the same thoughts myself. I have a feeling that it would take many more x-rays than any of us have had to put us at significant risk, but with your family history I don't blame you a bit for being concerned. Let us know what Boachie has to say about this.

11-16-2008, 02:10 PM
Hi Heather...

If you're not having any new pain or symptoms, I don't see the need to have x-rays taken. Since about a year post op, I've only had xrays taken about every 5 years, and then only because I had additional pain.


11-16-2008, 02:19 PM
Well I know my story isn't going to sound too good, but at one point my doctor said I wasn't allowed any more xrays for a few years because of radiation build up in my body. But, you have to understand I had a LOT of xrays for a few years. The year before the surgery, the year of my surgery and the year after my surgery I probably had around 100+ xrays. You would need a lot a lot of xrays to have any harm to your body. This was 25 years ago when they stopped my xrays for 2 years, and I have had no problems from that at all. So I would not worry too much.


11-16-2008, 04:49 PM
Of course, it is a parent's prerogative to make decisions about their child's medical care - but unless there are specific indicators that the small amount of radiation to the body from x-rays could trigger lymphoma....I would personally be reluctant to refuse an x-ray now & again to check-up on my spine, which I *already* have issues with. With time, it's likely that the surgeon will no longer require follow-up x-rays, but the first few years after a fusion is often the time that a fusion will fail, or that a different area of the spine will develop a curve. If not caught early, it's difficult to treat without more fusion surgery. I guess it's about what risks you're willing to take - whatever risk that you perceive comes from an x-ray now & again, or the small risk of missing a spinal problem without the x-rays....only you can know what is right for you or your child.

That said, let me assure you that modern radiation imaging techniques (x-rays, CTs, etc.) give very little exposure to radiation - MUCH less than is encountered in everyday life, in fact. While they may not be of the x-ray variety, everyone is exposed to many types of radiation all day, every day as part of just living - it's emitted by TVs & many other appliances, in trace amounts in some foods, it's in our soil, the air, even naturally in our body, & is what "makes" sunlight, heating, etc., etc.. Except for the first 2, all of these are necessary for life! Compared with all of these sources, the amount of radiation received from the odd X-ray set is very small, & I've never heard of any problems developing because of X-ray or CT use for diagnostic procedures.

Like Brad, I've had MANY imaging procedures - several times a year, every year for the last 22 yrs. There's a reason these days that none of my doctors are even mildly concerned - the exposure from a set of images now & again is minimal & very unlikely to cause any problems for me. Personally, I'm not willing to take the risks of not following-up on medical conditions to avoid imaging radiation. But...that's personal, I guess.

If you're concerned at all about your daughter's exposure though, please do speak to her doctor. You might find that your fears are allayed, or that s/he could do without the x-rays by now. You're right, though - it ultimately your decision.

Best of luck to you & your daughter :)

11-16-2008, 06:28 PM
Brad and Discombobulated,

While I will still worry (that's my job as a mom - LOL!) about the number of x-rays my son will have over his childhood - and will try to avoid any x-rays that I deem unnecessary, I feel a little better after reading your posts - so thanks!

I do understand that today's x-ray machines emit a very low dose of radiation. I guess we all just wish our kids didn't have to have so many x-rays - just one more thing to worry about as a parent :)

11-17-2008, 01:55 AM
And thanks from me too. I've had a lot of xrays, ct scans and one MRI in the last 4-5 years and it had me a little concerned. I feel a lot more comfortable about them, now.

11-17-2008, 07:09 AM

I would never put my child's back at risk. In the five years of her treatment, I only refused x-rays that once because I knew there wasn't going to be any correction and that's why they wanted the x-ray.

I agree with you that x-rays are necessary immediately after spinal fusion. Jamie developed Kyphosis above her fusion within a few months after her fusion. Thanks to x-rays, we were able to tell that the Kyphosis has stopped progressing.

Mary Lou

11-17-2008, 04:39 PM
Mary Lou,

I profusely apologise if I implied that I think ANYBODY here would put their child's spine at risk. I most definitely don't think any such thing!

I just meant that *if* someone reading was having to choose between a allowing a necessary x-ray or having the doctor unable to assess their (or their child's) spine...then I wanted to reassure people that the risk from x-rays is very small & I've not heard of problems from imaging techniques as diagnostic tools. I'm sorry if I didn't make myself clear.

I'm so glad that Jamie's fusion & kyphosis are stable :)

Best to you & Jamie.

11-17-2008, 11:39 PM
I would urge everyone to ask their surgeons about the need to go back for checkups year after year. After a year or two postop, there appears to be no value to office visits if there are no new symptoms, and the radiation exposure definitely puts patients at risk. I think most doctors continue to schedule patients to appease them, but would probably admit that there is little if any value to the appointments for the patient. The collection of additional data for studies has an indirect value for the patient community, but I wouldn't expose myself to unnecessary radiation for the cause.


11-18-2008, 07:19 AM

No need to apologize! I'm sorry if my reply implied that you thought that I or any other parent would put their child at risk. I wanted everyone reading this to know that I only refused an x-ray because I knew it wasn't needed.


I agree with you. Some doctors continue to follow patients at their request so they have that reassurance that everything is ok. I'm hoping that once Jamie has her follow-up next year we are told her Kyphosis and Spondolenthesis (sorry about the terrible spelling!) are both stable and she doesn't need to go back unless she has a problem.

Mary Lou