Doctors who practice interventional radiology are like ancient heroes battling dragons. To save everybody else, they run the risk of the monster’s breath parboiling them. Of course, in stories they always win the battle, but maybe no without a few third-degree burns that leave permanent scars.
Unlike heroes, however, interventional radiologists and other medical staff in interventional rooms experience radiation in small doses which, by themselves, do little damage. According to one study, during a procedure a doctor’s radiation exposure is about a thousandth of what the patient receives. Unfortunately, the cumulative effect of low dose radiation or LDR does add up.
That’s why these doctors and other medical staff need, like heroes usually have, a shield.
Medical personnel who use X-rays and other forms of radiation generally wear leaded aprons, thyroid shields and leaded gloves.
Increased risk of cataracts is one of the dangers of long-term exposure to low-dose radiation. This could even result in blindness. The International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) recommends an occupational limit for radiation exposure to eyes of 150 mSv/year, but some experts believe they set that limit too high. The latency period for forming cataracts is inversely related to the amount of radiation exposure, which means the more radiation someone absorbed, the more quickly cataracts could develop. According to the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP), “Particular attention should be paid to radiation effects in the lens of the eye.”
Cataracts are what happens when the lens of the eye becomes opaque, which obviously blocks vision. There are three kinds of cataracts that related to age. And exposure to ionizing radiation appears to cause mainly that one, posterior subcapsular. Radiation is most damaging to dividing cells, and these go to the rear of the lens, and then converge in the center, blocking vision.
Until recently, medical science believed eye exposure to the radiation had to cross a threshold before there was any risk of cataract formation, and that threshold was 2 Gy. If doctors or other medical staff do not wear eye protection during a procedure, their eyes get exposed to 0.5 Gy, well, under the threshold.
However, studies of workers who helped clean up Chernobyl, astronauts and surveys of staff in interventional room suggest there is no threshold, meaning the risk rises as the amount of exposure rises. Fully 50% of interventional cardiologists develop cataracts, according to this study.
Therefore, all interventional radiologists and other medical staff also need leaded radiation glasses to protect their eyes.
Interventional Radiologists Use a Lot of Radiation to Perform Medically Valuable Services
Interventional radiologists regular perform many tests and procedures which release radiation:
* Computed Tomography (CT) scans
* CT fluoroscopy
* Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
These are all a great service to the patients because using images to diagnose their conditions and to perform procedures, the interventional radiation specialists are minimizing invasive medical procedures and, therefore, the associated damage to the patient’s body. Using the least invasive techniques possible, such as catheters and needles instead of cutting people open as in traditional surgery, minimizes risk to the patient and therefore improves the chances of success.
Interventional radiologists treat many conditions with image-guided medicine that previously required regular surgery. By reducing the impact on the patient’s body, interventional radiology procedures reduce the risk of infection and speed up recovery, reducing the time the patient must spend in the hospital.
The two interventional radiology procedures that generate the most radiation exposure are arterial and hepatic embolization.
How Do Radiation Safety Glasses Protect Eyes?
They attenuate the radiation that passes through their lenses. This prevents much of the harmful rays from reaching the eyes.
According to this study, using leaded radiation safety glasses reduced the operator’s exposure to radiation during a procedure by a factor of 7.9-10.0. However, if the operator turns their head to the side relative to the source of the radiation, that diminished the LDR reduction. The eye closer to the source was better protected due to the curvature of the glasses. The study also found that, in practice, the LDR reduction for wearing radiation glasses was not as effective as it could be due to suboptimal arrangements in the room and the training of the staff. However, “Glasses can offer good protection to the eye under clinically relevant conditions.” That is, it’s best for medical personnel to keep their eyes pointed toward the tube to maximize the protection offered by the glasses.
This study too recommends everybody working with X-rays and fluoroscopy wear leaded glasses.
It’s simple. When you need to wear a lead apron for protection, you also need to wear radiation safety glasses. Look for glasses with 0.75mm Pb lead equivalency, SCHOTT S6HT for full protection. That means the glasses are the protective equivalent of 0.75 millimeters of lead. They’re required for everybody working in interventional radiation in Europe. In the United States that’s left up to the hospital, but remember they’re your eyes at risk.
For many years, the only leaded radiation safety glasses available were so heavy they were uncomfortable to wear, and therefore compliance was lower than healthy. In recent years companies have brought out radiation safety glasses that are lighter, comfortable and as stylish as fashionable sunglasses.
At Phillips Safety Products, we supply a wide variety of medical safety glasses, MRI nonmagnetic prism glasses and leaded radiation glasses. We recognize the need for all medical personnel to protect their eyes with radiation safety glasses for working with interventional radiology. Visit our web site today to see our full line of safety products.