Answer to Question #4115 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"
Category: Radiation Workers — Pregnant Workers
The following question was answered by an expert in the appropriate field:
I work in the operating room and I am exposed to fluoroscopy daily. I am currently five weeks pregnant. Even though I am very cautious and I always wear a lead apron, I am very nervous about the risks to my unborn child. In order for me to do my job correctly, it is essential that I be in the room when the c-arm is being used. Is the lead apron enough? Am I putting my unborn child in danger? What are the risks?
The lead apron will protect your unborn child from virtually all of the c-arm radiation exposure so there is no need for extra concern.
Lead aprons are made to attenuate the x-ray beam at least 95 to 98%—meaning that, at most, only 2 to 5% of the x rays could even get through the apron. Most aprons are even better than that.
There are some extra things you can consider doing if they are possible and you are still concerned. If you can put more distance between yourself and where the x rays are entering the patient's body, you can reduce your exposure substantially—even if you can only move another 30 to 60 centimeters (cm) away. Another item is to see if you could get a radiation badge (dosimeter) from your hospital's radiation safety office. If you can, you could wear it under the lead apron for a period of time and then let the radiation safety office determine what the radiation reading is. The regulatory limit for the fetus of an occupationally exposed radiation worker is 5 millisieverts (mSv) during the gestation period (mSv is a unit of effective radiation dose).
We have nearly 2,000 badged staff where I work and do give an extra radiation badge to pregnant workers to wear under their apron. None of the badges worn under the apron at the abdominal level have ever had a radiation reading on them—the lead apron protected the abdomen.
Certified Medical Health Physicist