Answer to Question #8573 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"

Category: Medical and Dental Equipment/Shielding — Shielding

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

I am a respiratory therapist. I recently spent a little over 10 minutes in a cardiac catheterization lab. I am very cautious and always make sure I am shielded. In this case, I asked the nurse if fluoroscopy was going to be on and if I needed to wear an apron. He said probably not and positioned me behind a portable lead shield that looked like Plexiglas™. I think the cardiologist tapped the pedal a few times while I was there. I did step out from behind the shield once for gloves (approximately five seconds) and I was 1.8 meters or more away from the patient. All this concerns me because I was newly pregnant at the time and did not know it. Is the shield sufficient protection for any worker, pregnant or not? I plan to always just pick up an apron. I will not be going back in during my pregnancy.

Assuming that this shield was large enough that your whole body was behind it, it would have provided enough shielding to keep any radiation dose minimal to you and your unborn child. This is typically what is used for persons in a room during fluoroscopy if a lead apron is not used.

If an individual who has not received radiation safety training is to be in a room during fluoroscopy, he/she should be instructed at all times as to where to stand, etc. It sounds as if this was done in your case, except that it should be done without you asking. In the event that your job description requires you to participate in fluoroscopy procedures on a regular basis (either now or after your pregnancy), you should receive radiation safety training and possibly a radiation dosimeter (to measure your radiation dose) before you continue in procedures. If you become a trained radiation worker and are pregnant, you can also declare your pregnancy in writing and be provided with additional training, dosimetry, and a decreased radiation dose limit (for your unborn child) to provide you with additional protection.

Ken "Duke" Lovins, CHP

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Answer posted on 18 December 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.