The Role of Hands in Radiation Safety and Trends in Radiation Therapy
Satyaki Banerjee
Kiran Medical Systems, A Division of Trivitron Healthcare

This article talks on the safety of doctors from radiation emitted by the different medical equipment's, is of utmost importance as ensuring the safety of patients. It needs to be noted that most of our radiologists in our Indian hospitals are not armed with enough protection shields while conducting high-intense radiology tests and prone to higher risk of death from cancer than the general or therapeutic radiologist.

Patient safety in radiation therapy is vital to limit damage to healthy tissues. Maximizing safety requires a team commitment and knowledge of the intricacies of advanced technologies. The safety of doctors and healthcare practitioners like radiologists, who are exposed to harmful radiation in laboratories and operating theatres is very important. Wearing the right protection apparel might not be enough since maximum exposure to harmful radiation is on their hands. Statistics reveal that such negligence by healthcare practitioners has resulted in the rise of deadly diseases like cancer among radiologists and doctors.

One of the biggest challenges is awareness on the need of adequate radiation protection measures for healthcare professionals. This can be resolved through concerted efforts between regulatory agencies, medical institutions and key opinion leaders in conjunction with industry to educate medical professionals across the country on the deterministic and stochastic effects of radiation exposure. There is adequate requirement of radiation protection to prevent severe health problems for both patients and medical professionals as any exposure to ionizing radiation carries a risk of causing cancer and affects the tissues which lead to erythema, hair loss and cataracts. For most common radiographic exposures, this risk is extremely small. However, as the risk is proportional to the level of exposure, it is important to ensure exposures are kept as low as possible.

The radiation resistant gloves are effective in counterbalancing the risk of scatter beam radiation exposure during lab procedures like fluoroscopy, cardiac cath lab and electrophysiology. Every time an image is captured, the x-ray actions its movements through the body making contact with internal structures. Hence, multiple images are necessary to ensure the success of these procedures. However the negative effects of scatter beam radiation exposure to the physicians and assistants can be offset by use of radiation protection gloves. These gloves are specially designed to allow the maintenance of dexterity during surgical procedures. These radiation gloves are offered sterile, by the pair in a full range of sizes, including half-sizes.

The greatest source of radiation exposure to the operator and staff is scattered radiation from the patient. Normally, controlling the patient dose also reduces the scatter and limits operator dose. However, chronic radiation exposure in the work place mandates the use of protective tools in order to limit occupational radiation dose to an acceptable level. The purpose of radiation protection tools is to improve operator and staff safety without impeding the procedure of patient’s safety.

The current radiotherapy innovations have led to increase in the precision of treatments allowing improved outcomes and reduced treatment-related side effects. Noteworthy developments are in the areas of Intensity Modulated Radiotherapy (IMRT), Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT), 4D imaging, particle therapy and nanotechnology. Advancement in imaging technology are further enhancing the target of radiotherapy treatment. An essential development is the introduction of adaptive treatments which can be adjusted as tumour where patient characteristics change throughout the course of radiotherapy. Adaptive treatments improve patient outcomes (for example, the reduction of radiotherapy related side effects for bladder cancer) but often require considerable investment of time by the whole radiation oncology team.

The on-going improvements in techniques/ technologies are increasing the precision and accuracy of radiotherapy which allows treatments to minimize the impact on healthy tissue and reduce treatment related morbidity. These advances are mediated through increased complexity of treatments and are relatively more resource-intensive in the short term, but leads to long term saving. Radiotherapy has always been a personalized treatment as every patient’s plan is unique and tailored to their particular clinical circumstances. It is expected that the introduction of tumour marker testing and molecular and biological imaging techniques will enable the already personalized radiotherapy treatments to be even more targeted.

Radiation oncology uses some of the most highly developed information technology infrastructure in the healthcare system to support its data and imaging needs. The need to use telemedicine in patient management will increase significantly as the number of cancer centres increases, particularly in regional areas. Technological solutions to expedite the transfer of relevant imaging and previous radiotherapy treatment details to the treating radiotherapy centre will be imperative.

In all, consumer awareness of radiation oncology has been always low. Increased access to information via the Internet is changing things. The lack of a current centralized patient information resource for radiation oncology means that sometimes the information accessed by consumers is inappropriate or not relevant in their clinical circumstances which are again causing quite a lot of issues to the patients.

There are several ways to stay protected from scattered radiation. Minimizing the duration of contact with radiation, keeping a standard distance from the source, wearing radiation protection apparels like gloves are a few steps to protect any individual from the harmful effects of radiation.