Radiation Protection Conniption

Safety issues in our clinics have to do with basic education and common sense to protect yourself, your staff and colleagues.

Dr. McCoy doesn’t mince words. Here is an email he sent to his entire staff about radiation protection:

It has been brought to my attention that many of you are not wearing lead gloves while taking radiographs. Furthermore, fingers have been spotted within the primary beam on some exposures.


For your safety, you must:

1. ALWAYS wear lead-lined gloves and apron and thyroid shield.

2. NEVER allow a body part to enter the primary beam, even gloved.

Should I discover that anyone has broken these rules, they will receive one warning. A second violation will result in IMMEDIATE TERMINATION. Yes, it's that dangerous, and that important.

Wow, that is one strong message! And after a quick investigation, it turns out that several practices I perform surgery at would actually write an employee up for not wearing adequate protection. Others are, shall we say, more … casual (which sadly is a ginormous euphemism).


Radius fracture in a Labrador, with a human hand exposed. Photo Courtesy of Dr. Phil Zeltzman


What’s the big deal with exposure?

Among the biggest health risks, of course, is cancer. Cancer of the fingers, such as squamous cell carcinoma and cancer of the thyroid gland (hence the idea of a thyroid shield), have all been well described.

Another risk is DNA damage, which can lead to genetic mutations. This also may have lead to a common but terribly bad joke about “protecting your gonads,” an expression heard at many vet clinics. Indeed, damage to your DNA can be passed on to the next generation.

The risk is especially high in pregnant women. When we talk about miscarriage or genetic defects in a newborn, suddenly, radiation protection is not a joke anymore.

X-rays can also damage blood-forming organs (think leukemia) and the lens (which can lead to cataracts—hence the idea of leaded glasses—which I virtually have never seen at a vet clinic).

In addition, radiation protection is not only common sense to protect yourself and your team members, it is also a huge liability concern. This explains why most concerned practice owners and managers should lose their sense of humor when it comes to radiation protection.

So what can you do? Use these three Rs as a guideline:

  • Respect yourself: Wear the appropriate leaded gear. And yes, this includes using these bulky gloves. Limit exposure to X-rays (of the patient and yourself) and scatter radiation by collimation of the X-ray beam.
  • Respect the equipment: Leaded aprons, thyroid shields and gloves should never be folded because it damages the lead and decreases its efficacy to protect you. Always hang the gear on the wall rack. You do have a wall rack at your clinic, correct?
  • Respect others: Never take an X-ray with the door of the radiology room open, or when anybody is standing unprotected in the room—or nearby.

Radiation protection, like many other safety issues in our clinics, really has to do with basic education and basic common sense to protect yourself and your staff or colleagues. It is also a huge liability concern. You can do it. You should do it.

Look for Dr. Zeltzman’s upcoming article on radiation in the August issue of Veterinary Practice News.

Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a mobile, board-certified surgeon in Allentown, Pa. He is the co-author of “Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound: How You and Your Dog Can Lose Weight, Stay Fit, and Have Fun Together.”


http://www.veterinarypracticenews.com/images/article-images/xray-fracture-zeltzman.jpgWhat’s the big deal with exposure?6/18/2012 12:31 PM

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