Radiology and Physical Medicine

Non-Ionizing Radiation. Applications in Medicine

April 21, 2014

First of all, in order to structure this essay, an index will be included, explaining what is to be discussed on it and the order of it:

– What is non-ionizing radiation?
– Which types do we know of? How do we classify them?
– What medical uses are there in the medical and health fields? Examples

What is non-ionizing radiation?

We define non-ionizing radiation as any kind of electromagnetic radiation that does not carry enough energy to ionize atoms or molecules, not removing any electrons but rather making them vibrate, thus rising the body’s temperature. They are long-length, low-frequency and low-energy waves.

In contrast, ionizing radiation, which does have the energy to remove electrons from the atoms or/and molecules of the bodies it strikes.

Given this, non-ionizing radiation is rather used if possible due to the fact that it doesn’t alter the atoms and molecules of the bodies it interacts with, thus not raising the possibility of causing mutations or cancer to the patients exposed to it.

However, being electromagnetic waves, they can interact with electronic devices within the body, such as the artificial cardiac pacemaker. Other associated risks may be hyperthermia, causing the tissues to overheat and get damaged.

What types do we know of?

Non-ionizing radiation includes radio waves, microwaves, infrared and the visible spectrum, being UV rays some sort of bridge in between ionizing and non-ionizing, since the near ultraviolet (NUV) is not to be considered ionizing, meanwhile further on the spectrum it can cause ionization.


What medical uses are there in the medical and health fields?

Some of the medical applications may be:

Radio frequency:

MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
Supra-ventricular arrhythmia treatment
OSA (obstructive sleep apnea treatment)


  • Tumor detection
  • BPH (benign prostate hyperplasia) treatment
  • Supra-ventricular arrhythmia treatment
  • Dental caries prevention


  • Medical infrared thermography(MIT)
  • Tissue regeneration (especially Far IR)
  • Pain treatment
  • Fluorescence tomographic imaging (Near IR)

Visible light

  • Optic fiber used in endoscopy
  • Dosimetry
  • Laser applications (several)


  • Psoriasis and vitiligio treatment, bilirubin removal (especially on newborns and children). Other use can be ultraviolet blood irradiation (UBI), though this is not fully accepted by the medical community worldwide.

Author: Manuel González Díez
2º Course, Medicine. Granada University

1.- Algunas Notas sobre: APLICACIONES DE LAS RADIACIONES NO-IONIZANTES, Eduardo Moreno Piquero, Clases CEM, curso 07/08, marzo, USC.
2.- Far infrared radiation (FIR): Its biological effects and medical applications, Fatma Vatansever and Michael R. Hamblin.

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