Radiation Blog

Bilayer Lead – The Ultimate Protection for Physicians

08.13.20 | Thursday | Nofit Amir

Radiation protection garments lined with lead have been in use for many decades now. The significant improvements in machinery used in medical interventions have necessitated a look into other aspects, too; particularly, options available for protection from X-ray radiation.

Bilayer lead technology comes with multiple benefits and is currently the sought-after solution for various purposes where X-rays are administered in medical interventions.

StemRad’s innovative bilayer lead radiation protection gear designed for physicians

StemRad’s radiation protection gear for physicians – the StemRad MD ensures a higher level of radiation shielding without compromise on comfort and ergonomics. The entire protective gear is comprised of an exoskeleton with patented joints for hip and knee movement. This exoskeleton carries fully the weight of the bilayer lead shield that is worn, along with the integrated thyroid collar and visor for protection of the head. The physician using this radiation protection will not feel the weight of the gear at all and can comfortably work at the surgical table without fear of radiation or injuries from heavy lead-lined shielding garments. 

Lead shielding should be at a minimum thickness of 0.25 mm in order to protect against radiation particles from X-rays. StemRad’s radiation protection for physicians comes with a visor that is at 0.30 mm lead eq. and attenuation of at least 91.5%. This visor is designed so physicians can wear their own prescription glasses, as the visor covers the face without the need for radiation-shielding eyewear.

The integrated thyroid collar is at 0.50 mm lead eq. and has an attenuation of 97.2%, while the expanded protective garment is at 0.50mm lead eq. on the front and sides and 1.0 mm lead eq. in the overlap area in front. The entire weight of the radiation shielding gear is carried by the proprietary exoskeleton. StemRad’s bilayer lead technology follows the ALARA (As Low As Reasonably Achievable) principle and ensures that the physician’s radiation dose is low.

StemRad’s bilayer lead protective gear can be hung on a mobile hanger which, again, is a proprietary design; moreover, it offers an easier way to store the gear and move it around the hospital.

What are the potential dangers of X-ray radiation?

X-rays are a form of ionizing radiation. In the medical field, X-rays are used for imaging of bones, diagnostics, and during certain surgical procedures. The dosage administered is extremely low and unlikely to cause any short-term side effects. However, many studies show that prolonged exposure to radiation particles over a period of time can cause mutations at the cellular level which, in turn, develop into some form of cancer. Other side effects may be hair loss, nausea, cataracts, radiation scars, etc.

All established protocols within places that use X-rays for medical interventions ensure that X-rays, fluoroscopies, and CT scans may be done only after donning the right protective shielding gear, like aprons, caps, thyroid collar, etc. Radiation shielding from these essential accessories can mitigate most of the potentially harmful effects of X-rays.

Can bilayer lead protect radiology teams from harmful X-ray radiation?

Bilayer lead technology has now been integrated into protective garments specifically manufactured for radiation shielding. Some manufacturers have decided to make lead-free options but all the studies and data show that lead is the best material to prevent harmful scatter-radiation from attaching onto someone. As the name suggests, this protective garment offers double-layer shielding. Also, most protection gear – especially standard lead-lined aprons – only covers the front of the person wearing it, while the back doesn’t receive as much coverage. In contrast, bilayer lead shielding from StemRad ensures that both the front and back are adequately protected. Compared to the standard lead-lined protective gear, bilayer lead garments offer a much higher level of protection. 

X-ray Protection

What is the need for bilayer lead protection for physicians?

In addition to their regular use by radiologists, X-rays are also used by medical professionals in orthopedic and diagnostic interventions. In all cases, standard lead-lined radiation protection gear is heavy and difficult to wear for long periods of time. In spite of regulations that mandate wearing suitable protection when using X-rays, there is poor compliance with radiation safety guidelines due to ergonomic discomfort from wearing heavy lead aprons.

Ordinary radiology lead aprons are heavy and limiting. Physicians standing for hours together during surgeries while wearing heavy lead-lined protection are highly prone to spinal injuries and other orthopedic conditions.
This could potentially lead to wearing the radiation shielding garments improperly too.

X-rays are typically pulsed as low dosages to get the imaging done right. While no one but the patient is likely to be hit directly with the X-rays, there will inevitably be scatter-radiation particles that bounce off the patient. This is one of the primary reasons why physicians and everyone in the operating room require protective clothing. Bilayer lead being an advanced technology, it can be altered to be more ergonomically suitable, and this is exactly what StemRad has done for medical teams required to use radiation protection for long hours.

Precautions and protection for physicians from X-ray radiation

Bilayer lead can provide maximum achievable protection from harmful X-rays. However, physicians and radiologists who work for long hours around X-rays and radiation equipment are also advised to take other precautions in order to ensure that radiation exposure is minimal. Here are a few important steps to take:

  • Practice the guidelines provided regarding donning and doffing the bilayer lead gear
  • Ensure regular quality checks of all radiation-based imaging equipment to eliminate the possibility of radiation leaks
  • Store the radiation protection gear in their designated places when not in use
  • Ensure that all members of the medical team are given suitable training when working around X-rays
  • Regularly use personal dosimeters to check radiation exposure levels

Every hospital has its own set of protocols to follow regarding X-ray radiation. As technological advances continue to occur at a rapid pace, it is important to keep up in other aspects, too. Medical devices may emit lower X-ray doses and there may also be less scatter radiation, but despite these advances, protective radiation shielding with options like bilayer lead can reduce the harmful effects of radiation exposure many times over.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why is lead used for aprons?

A: Lead is an element with one of the best combinations of high atomic number and high density, which makes it among the most efficient materials for stopping X-ray and gamma radiation. It is also a soft material, lending flexibility to the apron.

Q: What PPE is used for radiation?

A: A lead apron is generally used to protect the body and internal organs, while lead acrylic visors can protect the head and eyes and a thyroid collar can protect the thyroid gland. Each of these components is integrated in the StemRad MD system.

Q: How do medical staff protect themselves from radiation?

A: Medical staff can limit their exposure to radiation by following the three principles for radiation safety: time, distance, and shielding. These principles state that medical staff should keep their time of exposure to a minimum, maintain maximum possible distance from the source, and use shielding devices when appropriate.

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