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Are You Worried About Taking So Many X-rays?

by Lori Hehn - October 6, 2016 at 9:00 AM
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After you have taken your zillionth x-ray for the day, do you ever worry about the radation you are exposed to in the workplace causing lasting health effects on you? Many vet techs have some type of fear about the harm that ionizing radiation could cause. It is important to ensure that you are using good technique and minimizing your risks. If you do this, your radiation exposure will be at a minimum and very unlikely to cause any harmful effects.

Taking x-rays are a part of daily activity in any veterinary clinic. Always follow the "ALARA" rule (as low as reasonably achievable).

Minimize exposure through a variety of different ways:

1) Sedate the patient when needed.

If a patient is stressed and struggling during x-ray, it will be much harder to get good images the first time and more people are needed to take the images. This means that you will have to take repeated views and thus increase your exposure.

2) Use quality Personal Protective Equipment.

This includes lead aprons, thyroid protectors, and gloves. 

3) Minimize the number of people needed to perform the x-rays.

If one person can take the x-rays or if the pet can be restrained using sandbags, etc. then do this to reduce exposure.

4) Always wear your Radiation Badge

Wear a readiation badge to measure the exposure you are getting.

5) Keep yourself out of the x-ray beam!

This seems obvious, but seeing fingers in x-rays makes me cringe- there is no excuse for this. Also, wearing a lead glove doesn't protect you from the primary beam!!!! The gloves help to prevent from scatter radiation. 

6) Make sure the equipment you are using is properly maintained.

7) Digital x-rays Help Decrease exposure

Digital x-rays (which most practices now have), help decrease exposure and are helpful because the images can be manipulated on the screen to make them lighter or darker without having to keep re-taking images to get it just perfect.

8) Remember Time, Distance, and Shielding.

Reduce exposure time, increase distance as much as possible, and use proper shielding as discussed above.

9) Keep track of your quarterly monitoring radiation badge reading.

Then you can actually see what your exposure is. The exposure you will see is usually markedly lower than the threshold set by NCRP (see below).

10) Take extra care in positioning properly the first time.

This will help to prevent you re-taking the images again.

Treating Radiation With Respect, Not Anxiety

"The National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP) is responsible for setting guidelines regarding radiation exposure. Currently, the NCRP guidelines state that 5000mrem (5rem) a year is the maximum permissible dose (MPD) for occupational exposure. In other words, the NCRP recommends that veterinary technicians obtain less than 5000mrem of exposure during the course of a year." 

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About Lori Hehn

Lori Hehn is a practicing veterinarian and a contributor and content manager with XPrep Learning Solutions. She has a drive for continual learning and enjoys interacting with veterinary and vet tech students. She also writes veterinary learning books for children.

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