Occupational Radiation Exposure from Interventional Radiology

Radiology has worked wonders in medicine and goes way back as early as 1896. tX-rays were also used in field hospitals during World War I (1914-1918) to save lives from injuries and to prevent infection from foreign objects. 

This branch of medicine is divided into two areas: diagnostic and interventional. 

Diagnostic Radiology is obtaining images of the inside of the body to specify the illness or injury. It’s at the core of clinical decision making, determining the next procedure that will best treat the patient. 

On the other hand, interventional radiology (IR) is guiding less invasive surgical procedures by inserting different small tools like wires and catheters inside the body.

Image from Philippine Heart Center

What does Interventional Radiology treat?

Interventional radiologists are medical doctors who have completed a 4-year residency in radiology and a 1-2 year fellowship in interventional radiology. They work closely with surgeons, oncologists, and neurologists to plan and conduct treatment for patients. 

Using imaging guidance like X-rays, CT scans, and ultrasound, interventional radiology allows minimally invasive surgical procedures that can also be done on an outpatient basis. That’s the main advantage it has – allowing patients to return home the same day. Aside from that, there is usually less pain resulting in faster recovery time and fewer complications.

With interventional radiology, physicians can open or close blood vessels, drain fluid, take biopsy, and treat tumours. They may do this in what they call an angiography or special procedures suite, similar to an operating room. 

Here are some of the procedures: 

  • Angiography – injecting a contrast agent–a special dye–into a blood vessel and taking X-ray images to visualise the blood vessels. The images are called angiograms and can help diagnose problems like blood clots and aneurysms. 
  • Angioplasty – using a small balloon-tipped catheter and inflating it to open up blocked or narrowed blood vessels. They use a stent, a tiny, expandable metal mesh coil, to help keep the artery from narrowing again.
Image source: Wichita Diabetes and Endocrinology
  • Needle biopsy – inserting a small needle guided by imaging techniques to take a tissue biopsy. This helps your doctor diagnose a medical condition. An example is a needle breast biopsy. 
  • Embolization – injecting a substance into a blood vessel to block blood flow to a specific area such as a tumour. It can treat some types of liver or kidney cancer, aneurysms, and other conditions.
Image source: Saint Luke’s
  • Gastrostomy tube – inserting a tube through the abdomen to bring nutrition directly to the stomach. These are for patients like kids who can’t take sufficient food by mouth.

Radiation Protection for Interventional Radiologists

Many IR procedures use X-rays or fluoroscopy, exposing both patient and staff to radiation. Some use very little radiation and more for complex procedures. 

In very rare cases, an adverse result is skin damage but in general, radiation exposure from IR is not a major health concern as long as the staff follow the safety procedures. Unit registration, facility authorisation, periodic safety check, and radiation monitoring are requirements that need to be met.

It is important to minimise unnecessary imaging and to use the lowest possible radiation dose. For patients, the doctor should only recommend the procedure when the benefits are much greater than the risks and should discuss all the possibilities with the patient.

Radiation Monitoring in Interventional Radiology

For medical, dental, veterinary facilities or any organisation working with radiation, a real-time radiation monitoring system can provide clear visualisation of data to increase compliance with regulations.

The SensaWeb solution automatically captures radiation measures continuously, requiring no input from end-users. If there are any exposures above a determined level, alerts will be sent immediately to the relevant staff member. Unless there is a critical issue we don’t expect there to be any change to processes during procedures. Being able to review the data afterward will provide a greater ability to change or adjust to limit future exposure.

For more information, connect with us here or our email address: info@sensaweb.com.au. You can also call us at +61 415 409 467.

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