Paper Topic: Is Medical Radiation safe?
When it comes to radiation it is no surprise that people automatically assume that it is bad. But radiation is actually used to help people when it comes to the medical field. This is considered to be medical radiography which is the oldest form of medical imaging. But with today's advancements in radiation safety principles, lower doses with digital imaging, and radiation monitoring working in medical imaging is considered to be safe.
But before explaining if working in medical imaging is safe, it is important to understand what radiation actually is. "Radiation is energy given off by matter in the form of rays or high-speed particles (Radiation Basics 2017)". Also, there is two forms of radiation there is ionizing and non-ionizing. The determining factor that separates these two types of radiation is the way that they interact with matter. "Ionizing radiation is a form of energy that acts by removing electrons from atoms and molecules of materials that include air, water, and living tissue. Non-ionizing radiation is a form of radiation with less energy than ionizing radiation. Unlike ionizing radiation, non-ionizing radiation does not remove electrons from atoms or molecules of materials that include air, water, and living tissue. (Radiation Studies: Ionizing Radiation | CDC 2015)". The kind that is used in medical radiography is ionizing radiation. When it comes to ionizing radiation the removal of electrons when it comes to living organisms can be harmful. When the outer shell electron is removed by ionizing radiation there many different effects that can result from this happening. For instance, one of the effects that result from is the mutation of a cell. The mutation of a cell can become one of two things. The first thing that it can become is a cancer. "Cancer happens when cells that are not normal grow and spread very fast. Normal body cells grow and divide and know to stop growing. Over time, they also die. Unlike these normal cells, cancer cells just continue to grow and divide out of control and don't die when they're supposed to (What Is Cancer? (for Kids))". The other thing that can happen is that it can cause a cell to grow into a benign tumor. A benign tumor is considered to be a non-cancerous tumor.
When it comes to working with radiation in the medical field there are 3 main things to consider. These three main points are time, distance, and shielding. In this case the term time refers to the amount of time that an individual spends around a radiation source. By minimizing the amount of time that the healthcare worker is around a radiation significantly reduces the chance of having a negative effect from ionizing radiation. If the medical worker has no other option but to be in an area where radiation levels are elevated it is advised to complete whatever work has to be done and quickly leave that area. The second principle when working with radiation is distance. When it comes to distance and working with radiation it is one of the most important things to consider. Because by maximizing your distance from the radiation source it significantly lowers the healthcare worker's chances of having negative effects from ionizing radiation. Distance is the easiest way for a healthcare worker to reduce their dose because distance and dose have a inverse relationship. For example, if you increase your distance from the radiation source you decrease your dose. This is a huge factor to consider when doing mobile radiographic studies on patients. Because when doing mobile radiographic studies there is not always a primary lead wall barrier to protect the health care worker from the radiation. The rule of thumb when it comes to doing mobile radiographic studies is for the radiographer to be at least six feet away from the radiation source. Although, even with being six feet away from the primary source of radiation the medical radiographic worker will still receive a small dose of radiation but it will have a lower chance in having a negative effect on the individual. The third principle of radiation safety is shielding. When it comes to shielding it can be as simple as just putting something between the healthcare worker and the primary radiation source. When working in the hospital the rooms where medical radiographic imaging is obtained the walls are lead lined in order to contain the radiation that is emitted within that room. Also, the rooms have a wall that covers the medical radiographer when he is exposing the patient to radiation. By the radiographer stepping behind this wall he would fall in compliance with all three radiation safety principles. Another type of shielding is the use of lead aprons that protect the medical radiographer and the patients from radiation. The use of lead aprons is a great practice but it is not a primary barrier against a source of radiation. However, the use of lead aprons and the other two principles of radiation safety is considered good practice.
Although, the use of the three principles of radiation safety is great the use of digital radiography (DR) is another great thing to consider when it comes to medical imaging. The use of digital radiography (DR) has some major advantages compare to it older counter part computed radiography (CR). The major advantage of digital imaging is simply the materials that it is made out of. The two primary materials that digital imaging plates are made out of are gadolinium oxysulfide and cesium iodide. These materials are both very efficient in converting radiation to the image that appears on the monitors that the medical radiographer and radiologist see. Also compared to its older counterpart digital radiography (DR) can create the same image as computed radiography (CR) but with the use of lower technical factors that essentially uses less radiation. The use of less radiation with the use of digital radiography (DR) is great for both the patient and the medical radiographer because that is less radiation dose that the both receive. Also, with digital radiography (DR) the use of collimators helps create a safer work environment for the medical radiographer. "Beam collimators are 'beam direction' devices used in the x-ray tube housing, along with an arrangement of mirrors and lights, in such a way that the light and x-ray fields match each other. They are made of lead shutters which completely absorb the photons, and thus reduce the patient dose as well as focus the radiation accordingly to the area of interest. They allow different projections of x-ray fields (Goel)".
However, the use of digital radiography (DR) still emits radiation and it need to be monitored in order to help the medical radiographer remain safe. "Dosimeters are issued to measure and record the amount of occupational radiation dose an individual receives as required by state and federal regulations. Dosimeters are required to be issued if an individual is likely to receive greater than 10 percent of maximum permissible dose (University of Pittsburg Marketing Communications Webteam 2018)". These dosimeters are worn at the collar of the medical radiographer or anyone that consistently works in a radiation field. It is worn at the collar level because that is directly at the level of the thyroid. The thyroid is one of the most radiosensitive organs of the human body. However, the information regarding the amount of radiation that medical radiographer has received is monitored by the radiation officer. If the medical radiographer is receiving too much radiation they will be put on leave for their own safety.
When working with medical imaging the three safety principles are something that are in bedded into the medical radiographer during their schooling. Also, the use of digital radiography (DR) and its advantages of using low dose radiation are a very important step towards working safely with radiation. Another, factor that comes helps to work safely with radiation is the monitoring of the dose the medical radiographer receives. With all these factors working to keep the medical radiographer safe it is obvious to say it is like having any other job when it comes to the risks.Work cited:
"Radiation Basics." United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment.
"Radiation Studies: Ionizing Radiation | CDC." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 7 Dec. 2015
"What Is Cancer? (for Kids)." KidsHealth, The Nemours Foundation
"Radiation Studies - CDC: ALARA." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
"Ray Scatter Radiation Can Image Your Hand | X-Ray Visions Inc." X, 12 June 2014
Computed Radiography (CR) and Digital Radiography (DR): Which Should You Choose?, 6 June 2016
Goel, Ayush. "Beam Collimators | Radiology Reference Article." Radiopaedia Blog RSS
University of Pittsburgh University Marketing Communications Webteam. "Dosimetry." Dosimetry Overview | Radiation Safety Office | University of Pittsburgh, 15 Nov. 2018