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Radiation Protection is our primary area of expertise. We carry radiation protection aprons from Shielding International, Techno-Aide, Bar-Ray and Protech Medical. We have every style to fit your needs and budget.
Contact KMI for free consulting if you have questions or special radiation protection requirements. 541-508-0540
Choosing the correct X-ray apron for your staff
Choosing the correct x-ray apron is important when outfitting your staff. The standard frontal radiation protection apron has been around for decades and is found in nearly every medical imaging department on the planet. However, what if your staff needs to wear their apron for extended periods of time? Or need to remove their apron when in a sterile environment? Comfort, weight, level of protection needed, types of applications and personality are all factors that should be considered. We’ll look at each of these factors so you can make an informed decision
Comfort has to do with the style of apron and the lead type chosen. Aprons have been designed with comfort in mind so you can now find aprons that are built as a Vest/Skirt, Flexback type that gives the tech back support, full wrap aprons that give ultimate protection, maternity styles and full back support type aprons for those who need it. For instance, Radiologic Technologists who primarily work in the emergency room setting will do well with standard frontal aprons with regular .5mm Pb eq lead. Frontal aprons are generally easy on and easy off for quickly getting to your exam and removing the apron quickly when finished. A cathlab nurse or tech needs to wear their apron for an extended period of time if not the entire day. For these applications a vest/skirt using a non-lead core would be the right choice. For the doctor or nurse in surgery who need to remove their lead apron during surgery, a surgical drop-off or surgical drop-away type apron is what would be needed. Every manufacturer in the Kemper Medical catalog makes an x-ray apron that fill your specific needs.
The lead type chosen for the apron has a lot to do with comfort and level of protection. The standard level of protection is .5mm pb eq. Regular lead of this equivalency provides the best radiation protection, is the least expensive and the most durable. However, it is also the heaviest which will have a direct impact on comfort. All manufacturers also have a hybrid lead option such as TL Lite Ply from Shielding International, Lightweight Lead from Techno-Aide and True Lite from Bar-Ray. This lead is primarily lead with non-lead attenuating material embedded and/or mixed in with the core lead. Non-lead attenuating material is lighter weight. The trade off is that it is also more expensive to manufacture and the attenuation drops off as the kVp (strength of the x-ray) goes up. The drop off is generally around 4% to 6% but it depends on what the ratio of non-lead to lead is in the core material. On the plus side, the weight reduction can be from 15% to 23% also depending on the ratio of non-lead to lead. A full lead-free apron will be the lightest apron you can get. However, attenuation as a whole will be reduced slightly and are the most expensive to produce. This apron core material is excellent for cath labs where the staff must wear their aprons for an extended. With proper care, these aprons will last for many years and be very comfortable when used in the correct application.
The last factor in choosing the correct apron is personality. This has more to do with fabric choice than any other factor. Manufacturers have done a wonderful job of updating and upgrading their fabric choices so each individual can choose something that matches their personality. Everything from standard royal blue nylon to hot pink leopard to color changing hologram prints are available.
Radiation protection aprons have come a long way the past 15 years. With good feedback and imaginative manufacturers, they will continue to produce high quality and versatile x-ray aprons for you to choose from.
What Type of Lead Should Be in My Radiation Protection Apron?
Picking the right lead for your radiation protection apron is really limited to three choices. Regular lead, non-lead materials or a hybrid of the two. There are a few things to consider when choosing what’s right for you or your department. First is the most important, and that is attenuation properties. Regular lead has the highest attenuation and on average has protection values of 96%(+/-) attenuation at 120kVp. Regular lead is the most durable and least prone to cracks, pinholes or degradation. It is also the least expensive lead option among all manufacturers. However, it is also the heaviest choice among the lead options. If you are wearing your radiation protection apron for long periods of time, regular lead is not the best first choice. Other considerations need to be deliberated though. What kVp are you working with on a regular basis, how long do you need to wear it at any given time and do you or your department take care of your radiation protection aprons like the manufacturers say you should. If you wear your lead for short periods, budget is a major concern and your staff tends to drape their apron over the back of a chair or it ends up piled high with other aprons, choose regular lead.
Hybrid lead is a combination of regular lead and non-lead attenuating materials. The exact mix is generally a well kept secret among the manufacturers as they do not want other manufacturers plagiarizing their core lead abilities. With that in mind, it’s difficult to compare apples to apples when looking at weight and attenuation properties of each manufacturers hybrid lead because their ratio of lead and non-lead materials is unknown. In general, hybrid is approximately 15-20% lighter and attenuation that varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. A case in point, manufacturer “A” claims 95.4% attenuation at 120kVp for their hybrid lead aprons while manufacturer “B” claims 96% attenuation at 100kVp. Hybrids have nearly identical warranties as regular lead aprons and take abuse quite well. They are only slightly more expensive and have been by far the most popular choice of lead when clients order radiation protection aprons from us at Kemper Medical, Inc.
Non-lead is the clear choice for light weight radiation protection aprons. This lead choice is excellent for Cath labs or any other situation where you are wearing your lead for long periods of time and your kVp used is generally below 100. Attenuation does drop off with non-lead radiation protection aprons at high kVp. However, if your exam situation only requires kVp’s below 90, non-lead aprons will attenuate the same or higher than regular lead at 120kVp. There are a couple of caveats with non-lead. It is more expensive adding 25% to 30% to the cost of an apron and they are more prone to cracks if the apron is not taken care of. They won’t fall apart if you look at them wrong but they cannot take the abuse that regular lead or hybrid lead aprons will handle. They will last many years with proper care.
A bit general I know, however, if you would like more specific information or still are unsure what type of apron is for you, contact the professionals at Kemper Medical, Inc. We have been techs and department managers. We understand radiation protection aprons from every angle.
Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen. This name may not be familiar, but this German/Dutch physicist and mechanical engineer discovered and produced electromagnetic radiation in X-rays (also known as Röntgen rays) in 1895. Röntgen temporarily called them X-rays because in mathematics, X is an unknown value.
He earned the first Nobel Prize in physics in 1901 for this discovery and over a century later had an element named after him rontgenium (element 111), by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC). The first medical x-ray radiogram (or Röntgenogram) that he took was of his wife’s left hand. Considered to be the father of diagnostic radiology, Röntgen opened a whole new and necessary world in medicine. In Würzburg, Germany, there’s the Röntgen Memorial Site, which is dedicated to Röntgen’s work, showcasing the documents, instruments, and machines he used.
The American Association of Radiological Technicians chronicles the early history of radiological technology after Röntgen’s discovery. It started off as a fascination and public curiosity and ultimately because a medical necessity, albeit a dangerous one.
X-rays in the early 20th century were not conducted by medical professionals. At first, the use of x-rays were used to deceive and dupe the public. Photographers also had interest in it and Röntgen photography became en vogue as people wanted to view their bones. Chemists, electricians, and engineers were the primary users of this technology and doctors would send patients to them not only for diagnostic purposes, but also for therapeutic services.
The following decade, the 1910s, physicians started to install x-ray machines in their own offices, and even start to train and specialize in radiology. Eventually, as the technology began to advance, doctors started to find they had less time with their patients as they were consumed with looking at and developing x-ray films and handling the equipment.
In order to get back to the hands-on work of treating patients, physicians gave their office assistants, who had no prior medical training then became the de facto radiology technicians. This role mostly fell on women who were exposed to the scattered radiation of the x-ray machines, and many of them died. Soon, nurses took on this role, but still had no protective clothing from the radiation. It was almost 20 years after Röntgen’s discovery that protective precautions such as film badges and lead aprons were widely used with x-ray machines.
Now in the 21st century, x-ray lead aprons, like those from Kemper Medical, and film badges are commonplace for both technicians and for patients. This type of protective clothing is used in medical imaging procedures can expose people to the radiation which comes from x-rays such as computed tomography, fluoroscopy, and radiography.
Lead is use because it is a highly dense element that can stop both gamma rays and x-rays. Lead is used in more than lead aprons. It shields nuclear power plants, x-ray machines, military equipment, laboratories, and other places that need shielding from radiation.
In terms of radiation exposure, lead aprons help to protect reproductive organs, which are susceptible to DNA changes that can be passed on to the patient’s children. The thyroid gland also can be quite sensitive to x-rays, so for dental x-rays, lead aprons should have thyroid collars. Even with these needed precautions, radiation technology has far advance since the 1900s, where the radiation beam is now more controlled and targeted, which significantly lowers the radiation exposure time.
There are other kinds of x-ray aprons that attenuate radiation, like tungsten and tin-based, as well as ones that are PVC-based. These all tend to be lighter in weight and depending on the material, attenuation can drop. But lead aprons have been the industry standard for decades, with a typical attenuation of 96%. Lead tends to be more durable, resistant to cracks plus wear and tear, and is usually the most affordable option.
Lead aprons come in many styles, patterns, colors, and variation, so you can even show off your personality in a Kemper Medical lead apron. Depending on the type of x-ray procedure, there are full wrap, frontal, and vest and skirt styles. For example, a frontal x-ray lead apron would be used for a short procedure that has no back radiation exposure. Whichever x-ray lead aprons you choose, they must fit in a secure fashion for effective protection.
Women also have different considerations and needs due to larger amounts of breast tissue, so lead aprons that they wear will need tighter arm holes to cover the sides of their breasts. Depending on the application, you may find that you need a different kind of lead, or a hybrid of lead and non-lead materials for your x-ray apron needs. No matter what your x-ray lead apron needs are, Kemper Medical, which specializes in radiation protection, can help you to find which x-ray aprons would work best for you and your staff.