BACKGROUND Patients encountered in rheumatology practice often have concerns about radiation exposure from the imaging procedures used to diagnose and monitor their diseases. However, such imaging procedures normally deliver radiation doses that are associated with only a low level of risk. OBJECTIVES To review and quantify the radiation doses delivered by the various imaging procedures commonly ordered in a rheumatology practice and to compare those doses with background radiation exposure in the United States. METHODS The authors reviewed and compiled literature on radiation exposure from background radiation and diagnostic imaging procedures. The review included a Medline search through December 2003. RESULTS Radiation doses from medical imaging procedures are so low that they do not have a clinically significant effect on mortality rates. In comparison to our normal daily exposures from naturally occurring background radiation and daily activities, the exposures from medical procedures are quite small. Moreover, the International Commission for Radiological Protection (ICRP) recommends that dose limits should not be applied to medical exposures in nonpregnant patients. Rather, the ICRP recommends that the medical exposure be justified and the protection be optimized so that the dose to the patient is as low as is compatible with the medical purpose. CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE Appropriate care of patients within the rheumatology practice frequently necessitates the use of imaging procedures that utilize ionizing radiation, such as radiographs, computed tomography scans, and bone densitometry. If ordered prudently, the benefits of these imaging procedures supersede the risks imposed by their radiation exposures.