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X-rays at Yale New Haven Health are now apron-free

by John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | September 30, 2020

Shields can also block parts from the scan that must be imaged, causing the patient to have to undergo the exam a second time and be exposed to more radiation.

The continued use of shields stems from a standard that radiologists follow called ALARA, which stands for as low as reasonably achievable. The American Association of Physicists in Medicine recommended in April 2019 that lead shields be discontinued. Yale New Haven planned to change its practice in July but made the switch instead in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as staff found it took additional time to clean aprons and there was an increased risk of infection from COVID-19.

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Yale New Haven Hospital believes the practice will eventually become obsolete, as it doesn't have much scientific merit to continue, but that it will take time for that to happen.

"Big changes in medical practice take time to spread and implement, especially ones that don't necessarily harm patients," Mustafa, told HCB News. "Lead shielding doesn't present much risk of harm to a patient, but it certainly doesn't provide much value either, based on what we now know about radiation biology and internal/external scatter radiation, and what the external lead shield actually does for reducing dose to the gonads. In addition, many states have some regulatory guidelines calling for shields to be used on patients during their X-ray exams, so that language needs to be updated on a state-to-state basis."

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