Answer to Question #8389 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"

Category: Medical and Dental Equipment/Shielding — Lead Aprons

The following question was answered by an expert in the appropriate field:


I'm a medical student and recently was completing a pain-medicine elective. The physician I was working with was using a C-arm fluoroscopy machine for a 15-minute thoracic procedure that he wanted me to observe. Unfortunately, there wasn't an extra lead apron available for me. Should I be worried about this 15-minute period in which I had absolutely no protection? By the way, I'm a 27-year-old female (not pregnant and otherwise healthy).


The short answer is "no"—you shouldn't be worried about the radiation exposure you received during this one procedure. For one case without the lead apron, the radiation dose you received is most likely well below the annual dose limits in your state for members of the general public. If you participated in a number of cases without a lead apron, the radiation dose you receive would be much higher than if you had worn a lead apron. Since the goal is to reasonably reduce radiation dose during all procedures, the use of a lead apron is typically required.

The problem in this instance is that the physician you were observing most likely went against procedure and/or state regulations regarding being in a room during a fluoroscopy procedure. The purpose of these rules and policies is to protect (in this case) the individuals in the room from receiving unnecessary radiation dose. These principals follow a philosophy called "As Low As Reasonably Achievable" (ALARA), in which you keep your radiation dose as low as you reasonably can by using time, distance, and shielding. In this case, the use of a lead apron constitutes shielding protection for those in the room during the x-ray exposure.

You are permitted to express any concerns to the radiation safety officer of your facility, who is responsible for implementing and enforcing regulations and policies regarding radiation safety. In this case, the physician should not have allowed the procedure to proceed with someone in the room who was not either wearing a lead apron or at least standing behind someone who was.

Ken "Duke" Lovins, CHP
Answer posted on 23 June 2009. The information posted on this web page is intended as general reference information only. Specific facts and circumstances may affect the applicability of concepts, materials, and information described herein. The information provided is not a substitute for professional advice and should not be relied upon in the absence of such professional advice. To the best of our knowledge, answers are correct at the time they are posted. Be advised that over time, requirements could change, new data could be made available, and Internet links could change, affecting the correctness of the answers. Answers are the professional opinions of the expert responding to each question; they do not necessarily represent the position of the Health Physics Society.