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news News Thursday, February 8, 2018 Thursday, February 8, 2018 10:48 AM - Thursday, February 8, 2018 10:48 AM

Keeping our employees and patients safe from radiation

Keeping our employees and patients safe from radiation

Shriners Hospitals for Children Medical Center — Lexington is dedicated to improving the lives of children by providing pediatric specialty care to children with orthopaedic conditions, in a compassionate, family-centered environment.

One way in which we provide care in a family-centered environment is by adhering to safety standards. It is important to keep the employees at our facility safe and healthy in order for them to provide the best care possible to their patients.

The leadership at the Lexington Shriners Medical Center oversees all safety procedures and guidelines throughout all departments, both clinical and nonclinical. One department where safety is highly observed on a daily basis is the radiology. Many people are aware of the effects of radiation in today’s environment. Humans have increased exposure to radiation through a variety of activities. These activities are mostly considered routine, where exposure takes place simply as we walk around. The chances of experiencing any radiation effects from this low-level exposure is minimal.

However, for some health care professionals the exposure to radiation is more top-of-mind. Radiation is commonly used to produce diagnostic images like X-rays in health care facilities. According to OSHA, the degree of exposure depends on a number of factors, such as the amount of radiation, the duration of exposure, the distance from the source, and the type of shielding in place. It is not uncommon for patients seeking medical care for an orthopaedic condition at the Lexington Shriners Medical Center to find themselves in need of an X-ray by one of our licensed diagnostic radiologic technologist. X-rays provide valuable information on bone structure to our pediatric orthopaedic surgeons, in order for them to help determine the best course of treatment.

It is no surprise that the staff in the radiology department is busy. The busier they are, the more exposure to radiation they receive on a daily basis. “Radiation is everywhere and there is a difference between natural vs. man-made radiation. We are dealing with the man-made radiation and work to control our exposure,” said Peggy Myers, RT, CRA, manager of the radiology department.

Shriners Medical Center, along with the majority of health care locations, keep a close eye on their employees’ radiation levels with special badges called dosimeters. Any of our technologists who capture X-rays and any staff members who are in the operating room when a C-Arm (designed for specific needs in orthopaedics, as the machine provides real-time footage of the bone anatomy in order for the surgeon to deliver precise positioning during operations) is being used, including the diagnostic radiologic technologists, residents, nurses and/or physicians, wear their badge at all times while operating or in close proximity to the machinery. Badges are worn at the collar bone level as the thyroid and eyes are the most sensitive to exposure. By wearing the badges up high, the levels of radiation are more accurately recorded.

Shriners Medical Center at all times adheres to these safety guidelines to limit the employees' exposure:

  • Wear lead aprons and thyroid shields
  • Wear lead glasses
  • Stand behind lead-plate glass while the X-ray machine is on
  • Maximize distance from the radiation source

Myers looks at all employees dosimetry reports when they are provided by the vendor to assure that each individual's exposure is below the trigger level set by the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (USNRC). “We have never had an instance where an employee’s radiation exposure was even close to the trigger level. We are very cautious about exposing our employees to radiation and create schedules that rotate them through the different diagnostic equipment weekly,” said Myers. “If we ever felt there was an employee receiving too much exposure we would immediately make an adjustment.”

Myers and the Lexington Shriners Medical Center’s Radiation Safety Committee are not just concerned about their employees’ exposure to radiation, but also our patients!

“Parents are concerned about the radiation exposure their child might receive from an X-ray or during a surgical procedure,” Myers said. “We take time to explain why we are doing the diagnostic procedure, how we are protecting their child and always use a lead shield on the patient when circumstances allow.”

The pediatric orthopaedic surgeons at Lexington Shriners Medical Center are always weighing the risk versus the benefit. Not just with diagnostic procedures, but all procedures. Shriners Medical Center prides itself on having the latest and safest equipment. In addition, the staff is committed to limiting what they do and combining X-rays when they can. “The diagnostic radiologic technologists work closely with the physicians and both are very cautious. We try and capture as much of the body in as few pictures as possible,” Myers said. “In addition, we place a lead shield over diabetic pumps. Research has told us that the radiation could alter the dosage from some pumps.”

Myers wants to make sure that patients know that it is encouraged, if X-rays pertinent to orthopaedic care are performed at another facility, to please bring a CD of those with you to your appointment at Shriners Medical Center. Myers and her team can upload them and perhaps prevent the patient from needing to have additional X-rays performed. In addition, the move by Lexington Shriners Medical Center to the UK HealthCare campus allows for easy electronic communication between the two organizations. If X-rays are taken at either facility, images can be shared between the two organizations rather quickly.

Patient wears a protective shield