Dartmouth-Hitchcock ditches lead aprons for X-rays

  • In this May 17, 2011 file photo, the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center is seen in Lebanon, N.H. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot) Toby Talbot

Published: 5/13/2021 4:56:28 PM

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health will no longer use heavy lead aprons to shield patients from radiation during X-rays because they have been found to provide little to no benefit, according to news release from the Lebanon-based health system.

Such shielding also can obscure parts of the body, requiring repeated tests or diminishing the utility of the images the X-rays produce, according to the American Association of Physicists in Medicine.

“When you receive an X-ray, a small amount of radiation will get to other areas of your body, but this occurs internally; lead will do nothing to block this radiation,” Michael Timmerman, radiation safety officer at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, said in the release.

To reduce exposure, D-H radiologists aim to irradiate only the area of the body necessary for the exam, Timmerman said. They also use the smallest amount of radiation necessary and consider using non-radiation options such as ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) when possible, he said.

Since the 1950s, the amount of radiation used in medical imaging has decreased by more than 95%, and advances in imaging equipment now can produce quality images using small amounts of radiation, the release said.

Though lead shields were often placed over patients’ reproductive organs during X-rays in an effort to prevent radiation from damaging cells that could be passed on to future generations, medical studies have not found that radiation from X-rays causes harm to patients’ future children, the release said.

The change at D-H stems from a shift in guidelines recommended by the American Association of Physicists in Medicine and the American College of Radiology.

It applies to all Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health facilities, which in the Upper Valley includes Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital in Lebanon, Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center in Windsor, and New London Hospital.

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