Do you have imaging and radiology questions? Call us at 814-467-3435.
You may notice that we no longer shield patients’ reproductive organs during imaging exams. Based on over 70 years of research, medical experts now know that the best way to keep patients safe during imaging exams is to not use shields. This is true at any age, including for those who are pregnant or who plan to have children in the future. We know this is different from how things have been done for a long time.
In the 1950s, medical experts had less knowledge about how the x-ray radiation used in medical imaging affected our bodies. One concern was that the radiation might damage cells that could be passed along to future generations. Because of this concern, lead shields were often placed over patients’ reproductive organs during medical imaging exams. We now know that the best way to safely image you is to not use shields.
If you have additional questions, please feel free to ask the radiologic technologist performing your exam. They are ready and happy to address your concerns or direct you to other resources, if needed. Below are some common questions about shielding.
Patient shielding has been used for more than 70 years. We have better equipment that uses much less radiation and operates differently. We also know more about how radiation affects the human body and that some parts of the body – like the testicles and ovaries – are less sensitive to radiation than we used to think.
Most modern X-ray, fluoroscopy, and CT machines can automatically determine how much radiation to use based on the part of the body being imaged. If a shield gets in the way, it could mean an increase in radiation dose.
Since we have equipment that can give us better information using less radiation than in the past, patient shields are no longer beneficial.
The amount of radiation used in most imaging exams is so small that the risk to you is either very small or zero. Shields provide negligible protection
When the reproductive organs are far away from the part of your body being imaged, there is no benefit from using shielding. When the part of your body receiving X-rays is close to your reproductive organs, a shield may cover up parts of your body that your doctor needs to be able to see. If this happens, we may have to repeat your exam.
Since the 1950s, people were concerned that radiation might damage sperm or eggs and that this damage would be passed down to your future children. However, this has never been seen in humans even after many generations (years) of studying it closely. This is true even for people who have been exposed to much larger amounts of radiation than what is used in medical imaging.
We have equipment that can give us better information than ever before and can get good images using much less radiation than in the past. However, placing shielding over your belly can reduce the quality of the exam if it gets into the image and in some cases can increase the overall dose from the exam. Since shielding your belly provides no benefit to your baby, it is better to not do it.
Your child’s doctor wants an image so that he or she can better see what is going on inside your child’s body. This exposes your child to a little bit of radiation. Your doctor has thought about the benefits and risks to your child. He or she has decided that the benefit from having the information from the image is much higher than the risk from the radiation, which is very small or zero. Because you aren’t being imaged, there is no need for you to get any radiation and so we give you an apron to wear to make sure that you don’t get any dose.
Patient shields have been used for more than 70 years. A lot has changed since then. We have better machines that use much less radiation. We also know more about how radiation affects the human body. Some parts of the body – like the testicles and ovaries – are much less sensitive to radiation than we used to think, thus there is no benefit from placing shields on your child.
We do not recommend using lead shielding during imaging exams. Some exams can never be done using a shield because the shield would cover up parts of the body we need to see. But, if you insist that we use a shield, we will honor your request if it is possible to do so without compromising the exam you or your child are having.