That Lead Apron in the X-Ray Room? You May Not Need It

Lurie Children’s Hospital is starting an “Abandon the Shield” campaign to educate staff members, patients and caregivers before it stops shielding across the organization this spring, Dr. Rigsby said. Shielding is used for most of the 70,000 X-ray procedures performed annually at Lurie in a variety of settings, from orthopedics to the emergency department.

A few miles away, at the University of Chicago Medicine hospitals, the recommendation to stop shielding “came as kind of a shock,” said Dr. Kate Feinstein, chief of pediatric radiology.

Dr. Feinstein said it seems contrary to what radiology professionals are taught, and she’s uncertain how it applies to her department, which already takes steps to reduce the chance that a shield will interfere with an exam. “We apply our shields correctly and our technologists are incredibly well trained,” she said.

Nevertheless, Dr. Feinstein said her department is weighing a halt to routine shielding.

Some hospitals are concerned about violating state regulations. As of last spring at least 46 states, including Illinois, required shielding of reproductive organs if they are close to the area being examined, unless shielding would interfere with the diagnostic quality of the exam, according to the medical physicists’ association.

Some states are revising their regulations. In some cases, hospitals have applied for waivers or sidestepped state rules by taking the stance that a shield has the potential to affect diagnostic quality anytime it is used, Dr. Marsh said.

The amount of radiation needed for an X-ray is about one-twentieth of what it was in the 1950s, and scientists have found no measurable harm to ovaries and testicles of patients from radiation exposure that comes from diagnostic imaging after decades of looking at data.

“What we know now is that there is likely no risk at all,” said Dr. Donald Frush, a radiologist at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford in Palo Alto, Calif., who chairs the Image Gently Alliance, referring to hereditary risk.

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