Answer to Question #8695 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"

Category: Medical and Dental Equipment/Shielding — Equipment

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

We are currently changing our x-ray equipment over to digital radiographs. We will have individual units in each operatory and an orthopanographic x-ray machine in the hallway. What safety precautions do we have to implement with regard to lead walls, safe distance from operators, etc.? Our management is telling us that no precautions are required. Is this true?

Converting from film/screen to digital image receptors typically will not change anything as far as safe operating procedures, shielding, etc. This is because all you are doing is changing the image receptor (i.e., you are recording the x-ray image on a digital medium instead of a film). Sometimes this entails new x-ray equipment, but most times it does not. In either case, even if operating techniques vary from film to digital, the safe operating procedures and shielding that are in place are usually sufficient.

Assuming your “orthopanographic” x-ray machine is simply a digital panoral unit, there should be no additional shielding or safety precautions (assuming it is replacing a film/screen panoral unit). If this unit is a 3-D dental computed tomography (CT), then the facility needs to refer to state regulations regarding possible requirements for shielding.

Ken “Duke” Lovins, CHP
Health Physicist

Answer posted on 1 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.