Considerations for Radiation Barriers and X-ray Shielding in Hospitals

by Leaftech - Date: 2007-03-29 - Word Count: 401 Share This!

With any treatment in a hospital that requires concentrated doses of radiation, it is important that both the patient and the workers are protected from extra doses, and from radiation spilling to an area it was not intended to reach.

The most familiar example of a common treatment using radiation is the use of the x-ray machine. Many of the pioneers of x-ray technology eventually succumbed to cancers which were created through exposure to radiation; this in itself is indicative of the potential dangers of long term, repeated exposure to this type of technology. Eventually, it was discovered that high density lead proved an effective barrier against both x-rays and gamma rays, and this element now constitutes the main component of most radiation barriers and x-ray shielding.

Shielding is used in any procedure involving the use of concentrated rays, from imaging to radiation therapy. In all hospital x-rays, patients and those in the room with them (such as the parents of small children) must wear an apron during the imaging process. In radiation therapy, the pinpointing of the rays means that radiation shielding is placed on other parts of the body in order to ensure no damage to organs and skin not under treatment.

For the most part, x-ray technicians and doctors or nurses involved in the process operate the machinery from outside of the room, limiting their exposure. However, remaining in the room behind a windowed radiation barrier allows for greater patient security, as being left alone can often induce stress in an already stressful situation. Radiation barriers are also constructed primarily of lead, in combination with plastic to provide a window through which the patient can see the professional and vice versa. The patient is thus afforded some relief from the feeling of total isolation.

In recent years, researchers have created fabrics specifically designed to have the same shielding characteristics as lead, without the weight. Because it is made of fabric, these shields are much more flexible and lighter than the lead aprons that are used for patient x-rays in most hospitals. While this new development offers greater comfort to the wearer, both patient and technician, it is significantly more expensive than the traditional product, and is not yet widely used. Considering, though, that the new product lasts longer, can be recycled, and is safer to handle than lead-based products, one can expect to hear more about this exciting development in future.

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