X-ray Beam Quality

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All X-ray units do not always produce the same quality of X rays for a given voltage. This may be due to incorrect calibration, age of apparatus, waveform and other causes. Unless the beam quality is known, dose measurements and tests on radiographic recording systems may be invalid. It has been shown (Ardran and Crooks, 1963) that a difference of 10 kV can affect the patient integral dose by 20-40 per cent. Diagnostic X-ray beam quality is usually expressed by means of the kV or kVp and the filtration or, alternatively, the half-value thickness (HVT) in millimetres of aluminium. However, HVT alone is not a good indicator of beam quality for this purpose: a simple experiment will show that it is possible, with different kVp's and filtrations, to produce X-ray beams with the same HVT but which give radiographs of quite different quality. This point has been stressed by Holm and Moseley (1964) and by other workers. HVT is, of course, valuable when the kVp is known, particularly if similar wave forms are being considered.

The Factors that will affect the X-ray beam quality are KVp.

X-ray Beam Quality (KVp)

The quality of the x-ray beam is controlled by the amount of voltage. Voltage provides contrast to the film.

The desired contrast appears as various shades of gray,

black, and white in the x ray negative (radio-graph).

Increased voltage provides less contrast (or more shades of gray). However, the beam has more penetrating power.

Decreased voltage, on the other hand, provides more contrast (fewer shades of gray and more black and white shades). However, there is less penetrating power in the

low voltage exposure. The technique most commonly used

to expose periapical and bite-wing X-rays is a 75 kilo volt

peak and 15 milliamperes.

Beam Quality Defining Factor (HVL):

Half Value Layer (HVL) is used to define the X-ray beam quality. The HVL of an x-ray beam is the amount or thickness of absorbing material or filtration that must be placed in the beam to reduce the transmission of the beam by one half. The material predominantly used to determine the HVL of diagnostic xray equipment is aluminum, and hence HVL is expressed in terms of mm of aluminum. Medical diagnostic x-ray machines typically have HVLs ranging from 2.3 to 5 mm Al. Total filtration and HVL are sometimes erroneously used interchangeably. They are not

equivalent terms. The introduction of a known thickness of aluminum will not increase the HVL by a corresponding amount of millimeters of aluminum. For example, in the following table at

80 kVp, 1.5 mm Al total filtration results in an HVL of 1.8. An increase of 1 mm Al to a total of 2.5 mm Al changes the HVL to 2.4 mm, an increase of only 0.6 mm Al. While the total filtration doesn’t typically change, the HVL measured will vary depending on the kVp and the type of high voltage generator (i.e., single phase, three phase, high-frequency, etc.) used in the machine.


1. What is the range of HVL value in medical diagnostic?

a) 2.0mm to 5.5mm Al

b) 2.3mm to 5.0mm Al

c) 1.5mm to 5.0mm Al

d) 2.5mm to 5.0mm Al


b) 2.3mm to 5.0mm Al


1. http://www.crcpd.org

2. http://armymedical.tpub.com

3. http://bjr.birjournals.org

4. http://www.ecu.edu

5. The Physics of Radiation Therapy, 4th Edition by F.M.Khan.

Home > Radiation Protection and Quality Assurance > Radiation Physics and Biology > Basics Properties of Radiation > X-ray beam quality

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