Last updated on June 19th, 2020.
The invention of x-ray machines is truly a huge development in the medical industry. Utilizing x-rays in medical imaging (such as radiology, ultrasound, and CT scan) allows doctors to view the internal organs and structures of a patient and identify if any medical treatment is necessary.
However, constant and frequent exposure to x-rays can be detrimental to a person’s health. Imagine how dangerous that could be for radiologists and doctors who use x-ray machines on a regular basis. Since stopping using x-ray machines is not an option, health workers need to use protective gears to avoid the negative effects of harmful x-rays. This is where radiation protection aprons come to play.
They are specialized clothing that can protect a health worker from x-ray radiation emitted by medical imaging machines. Their design can range from a small band that is wide enough to protect the neck up to a full-sized apron that covers the entire body. These aprons have a rubber outer surface and are padded with an insulating material that shields a person’s body from radiation.
The impact of radiation from x-ray, if it directly penetrates a person’s body, has been proven to cause major health issues such as tissue damage, organ failures, DNA malformations, and cancer. The insulating material absorbs the “shock” of x-ray radiation so it won’t directly impact a person’s body.
The most commonly used material for these protective aprons is lead, as it has a strong shielding power in a compact amount. A one-centimeter thick lead is already enough to block x-ray radiation, whilst steel needs to have a thickness of at least 2.5cm and concrete needs at least 6cm. It would be difficult to wear something that thick, right?
Despite being slightly heavy, lead aprons are ideal for health workers because they provide extensive protection with just the right amount of comfort. However, some manufacturers have innovated these aprons and combined other metallic materials in lieu of lead to make the aprons lighter and more comfortable.
Keep in mind that x-ray aprons are not like the typical kitchen apron that you use when cooking or cleaning. These specialized aprons contain a sheet of metal so they should be carefully handled and maintained.
Before using any protective apron, it is important to check it thoroughly for any damages. Inspect the inner and outer covering as well as the seams of the apron for any visible wear and tear. Check that all attachments such as belts, clips, or fasteners are secured and in good condition. Run your hands over the apron to see if there are any bumps, lumps, cracks, sagging, and inconsistencies. Should you find something, have the apron checked radiographically. The universal medical adage, “when in doubt, discard,” applies to these aprons as well.
The metal component is the most important part of these protective aprons. Be careful not to crease or tear the metal component of the apron as a slight damage on it could defeat the apron’s purpose and put a medical staff’s health at great risk. Unless designed for such purpose, never sit down when wearing an x-ray apron as this could crease the metal component. Avoid sharp and pointed objects that could tear the apron’s surface. Store the aprons carefully using special apron hangers or racks instead of folding them or hanging them over chair backs and other uneven surfaces.
These protective aprons can be exposed to dirt and grime, so it is vital to keep them clean to avoid damage to the metal component. Use cold water and mild detergent when cleaning the surface of the apron instead of bleach. Wipe the surfaces clean instead of soaking them in water. Machine laundering, autoclaving, and dry cleaning are strongly discouraged.
Constant exposure to x-ray radiation can deteriorate and weaken the metal component of radiation protection aprons after some time and this can lessen their effectiveness. Lead is a hazardous waste and it can be a toxic substance if disposed improperly; thus, protective aprons cannot be treated as normal trash. If possible, recycling protective aprons and using them for other purposes that can fit them is highly encouraged.
Should a lead apron need to be disposed, contact a disposal service company for proper handling and disposal. Other aprons with a different metal component may not need special disposal instructions, but, as the medical adage goes, when in doubt, discard and dispose it properly. Kemper Medical also sells apron bags.
Radiation protection aprons are an efficient tool for medical staff, radiologists, and doctors in protecting their own health. With proper care and handling, these protective aprons can help health workers ensure the health of their patients more efficiently.