In recent years, it’s become easier to establish and maintain safety standards for staff that conduct imaging procedures. There are fewer muscle aches and fatigue from equipment, information is becoming available about how to properly test shielding items, and exposure monitoring can be faster and more accurate without breaking your budget.
That’s more than just good news. It’s better safety.
We’ve identified five key tools or processes for modern radiation protection, that show these improvements. Using them means that safety steps are more likely to be taken on a daily and weekly basis, so practices are alerted to small concerns before they become major problems.
Advances in shielding
Until recently, safety items that shield against radiation haven’t always been comfortable for extended use. Now, lighter lead-free shielding materials are available. Items are made from a mixture of tungsten, magnesium, titanium and bismuth, which are as effective as lead but weigh as much as 30-40% less.
Three examples of shielding equipment most often used in practices show how items can be updated with modern materials:
1. X-ray Aprons
Shielding aprons have traditionally they’ve been made of a heavier, stiffer nylon, but now they can be made with UltraFlex®, a newer antibacterial/stain resistant material. Options using this come with a magnetic closures instead of Velcro so they protect just as well but are more flexible and easier to clean.
2. Thyroid Collars
These collars may seem cumbersome, but they protect the thyroid gland from a range of serious health issues, including cancer. Like aprons, modern thyroid collars are more flexible and have an available magnetic closure that enables them to be properly cleaned and disinfected.
3. Protective gloves
A clinician’s hands are vulnerable to radiation as they maneuver through an imaging procedure, but shielding gloves or Vet Mitts, offer protection. More flexible lead-free versions are available in either an open palm or full hand coverage. They don’t restrict finger movements as dramatically, so it’s easier to complete tasks during procedures.
Checking for safety
Testing protective equipment and monitoring for potential staff exposures helps practices stay on track to health and safety for the long term. The key for optimal effectiveness is to become educated on the best techniques for each and conduct them regularly.
4. Testing the right way
Even with perfect care, practices should test equipment regularly. While many practices have attempted to simply try to create an image of a staff person who is wearing protective equipment, they’re often surprised when this testing method reveals an image such as a hand in a protective glove. This happens because protective equipment is designed to protect from scatter radiation -- the beams that are deflected into multiple positions after the direct beam comes in contact with a hand or body part that is being imaged. Testing by placing a gloved hand within a direct ray, allows that hand to be imaged by that direct ray because the glove isn’t designed to protect it.
Instead, it’s better to test equipment through an easy, reliable three-step testing process:
- Step one: Visually inspect equipment, especially along seams, for any signs of rips, lumps, cracks, sagging or disruption in the integrity of the item.
- Step two: Check belts and other fastening devices to ensure there’s no disruption there.
- Step three: Conduct a wanding radiograph test to identify any loss of integrity that’s not visible to the naked eye.
If the equipment looks to be intact, continue with using it as you have been. If you have any questions, contact your Patterson representative at 800.225.7911.
5. Use a dosimetry badge monitoring program
Dosimetry badges are an easy way to help practices regularly monitor how much, if any, radiation staff experiences when conducting routine imaging procedures. They also ensure that practices are within OSHA mandated exposure levels.
Badges are obtained through a qualified provider and are ordered specifically for each staff person who has exposure potential. These badges should be worn every workday, and then regularly returned to the provider for testing and reporting procedures.
Patterson makes it easy to manage your dosimetry badge-based monitoring program. Through our partnership with Radiation Detection Company, a worldwide leader in dosimetry badge monitoring programs, you can create an online portal that makes badge ordering, badge return, and report management fast and easy. Visit pattersonvet.com/services/dosimetry-monitoring or call your rep to learn more.