Although radiation exposure is a daily occurrence in hospitals, it puts both staff and patients at risk of serious long-term health issues.
To reduce radiation exposure for patients and staff, hospitals must increase the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), enhance education, and adopt new technology.
The information in this manual will teach hospital staff about the radiation risks they face on a daily basis, how dangerous they are, and how to minimize the potential harm to both themselves and their patients.
Ionizing radiation in a medical facility
Medical imaging and radiation therapy are the two main sources of ionizing radiation in a hospital.
Medical imaging uses small doses of ionizing radiation to help diagnose medical conditions. Examples include PET scans, CT scans, and x-ray machines.
Radiation therapy: Ionizing radiation is used to treat cancer and other diseases in chemotherapy, targeted radiation therapy, and gamma knife procedures.
Both of these sources of radiation are safe in moderation. The risk of damage, however, becomes a serious issue when staff members are exposed to the machines’ risks every day while operating them and when patients with chronic conditions must undergo more scans than usual.
Reducing the danger of radiation in hospitals
There are three main strategies for lowering the dangers of radiation exposure for patients and medical personnel.
To make imaging safer and more effective, we need to educate people thoroughly about radiation and the procedures that cause it, improve compliance with personal protective equipment (PPE), and use cutting-edge technology.
PPE compliance needs to be improved
Hospitals have procedures in place to safeguard personnel and patients from radiation exposure during scans, but as the 2021 NCBI paper “Radiation Safety and Protection” (linked above) demonstrates, these measures aren’t always taken to their full potential.
Leaded eyewear shields an imaging technician’s eyes from radiation, but only 2.5% to 5% of people seem to wear them. This is particularly unfortunate given that leaded eyeglasses have been shown to block 90% of radiation exposure to the eyes.
Staff members exposed to harmful radiation frequently wear dosimeters. These tools alert the user when their absorption levels are about to become dangerous. However, it’s claimed that 50% of doctors who are eligible to wear them either don’t or do so incorrectly.
Patients and staff are protected from unintentional radiation exposure by lead aprons and clothing, but they may not be receiving the necessary upkeep. These lead clothing items need to be examined twice a year for breaks and cracks and tested to ensure that they are still able to block radiation. This radiation PPE should undergo more frequent testing and maintenance because they protect both patients and staff.
By using technology, gaps in radiation safety protocols can be found and filled
With the right technology, radiation risks can be reduced before they arise because it is safer and more effective.
Wearing sensor badges that are connected to a monitoring system called METER has proven successful for Saint Thomas’ Midtown Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee. This monitoring system keeps track of the staff at various locations and collects information about the level of exposure that each employee has experienced there. This not only increases patient safety but also aids the hospital in identifying potential radiation risk hotspots and implementing corrective measures.
The cutting-edge technique known as “ghost imaging” (also referred to as “ghost tomography”) is another innovation that reduces radiation risk. The accuracy levels of a standard x-ray scan are achieved using two x-ray beams split between the patient and a sensor panel in this type of 3D imaging, but with much less radiation exposure.
Switching to properly shielded medical-grade monitors for imaging systems can reduce extended exposure and electrical interference, both of which can lengthen imaging sessions or lead to less accurate results.
The final and probably most efficient method of shielding hospital patients and staff from radiation is to simply provide better (and more frequent) radiation risk education.
It was discovered in the “Radiation Safety and Protection” paper by NCBI that a 20-minute training video for the pertinent hospital staff could reduce the total time needed to perform fluoroscopy by 30 to 50%. It only took a few minutes of video to significantly reduce the amount of radiation that patients were exposed to.
Additionally, they discovered that by simply increasing the distance between staff members and x-ray machines, the scattered radiation that puts them in danger from x-rays can be reduced by 400%.
Additionally, radiation protection guidelines ought to be accessible in thorough, easy-to-use digital formats like Stanford’s Radiation Protection manual. The hospital staff can easily access this manual from their website because it is divided into a number of topics and pages that can be read and understood quickly.
The risks of radiation in hospitals can be reduced with ease by increasing PPE compliance, cutting exposure time, and improving education.