Choosing the right X-ray protective clothing

X-ray protective clothing includes any garment that strongly limits the exposure of medical personnel or patients to ionizing radiation.

View X-ray protective clothing

  • What are the different types of X-ray protective clothing?

    Aprons that cover a large part of the body are the most common X-ray protective clothing. There are also many types that can protect a specific part of the practitioner’s or patient’s body, such as thyroid collars, gonade shields, gloves and mittens, etc. The main types of clothing are:

    • X-ray protective aprons which provide front, back and side protection for the practitioner. Some are intended for patients, such as dental X-ray protective aprons.
    • X-ray protective thyroid collars which protect the front of the neck (thyroid) and are fastened at the back. They are mainly used for dental panoramic and cephalometric imaging as well as mammograms.
    • X-ray protective gonad shields and X-ray protective skirts which are designed to protect the pelvic area of both the patient and the practitioner.
    • X-ray protective gloves and mittens are essential protective clothing for the hands, which are highly exposed in interventional X-ray. Some mittens have an opening on the palm so that fingers can pass through.
    • X-ray protective surgical caps which are placed on the head and help reduce the effects of radiation on the brain, especially when the source is high up or overhead.
    • X-ray protective glasses and facial screens: as the crystalline lens is radiosensitive, it is important to protect it when handling X-rays or radioactive sources.
    • X-ray protective sleeves and armpit shields which are particularly suitable for surgeons operating under X-rays in interventional cardiology. These small leaded sleeves protect the armpit lymph nodes from oblique radiation beams.
    Lite Tech X-ray front protective apron

    Lite Tech X-ray front protective apron

  • What factors should be taken into account when choosing X-ray protective clothing?

    There are six main criteria to consider when choosing X-ray protective clothing: the level of protection, the protection zone, the weight of the clothing, the accessories available, the users concerned and the price.

    • Level of protection: the level of protection of the garment depends on the density and thickness of the shielding. This is measured in terms of lead thickness equivalence (0.25 mm, 0.35 mm and 0.5 mm). In order to choose the level of protection that is best suited to your procedure, several factors will have to be taken into account, such as the time and frequency of exposure, position and distance from the radiation source, collective protective equipment, etc.
    • Protection zone: some garments offer front, rear and side body protection. Your choice will depend on the type of procedure being performed. Some full aprons have an integrated thyroid collar and skirt in order to cover most of the body up to the knees.
    • Weight and comfort: it is very important to consider the weight of the X-ray protective garment as this strongly influences the comfort of use for the practitioner. New radiation shielding materials are high-performance yet ultra-lightweight (see next question).
    • Accessories: several accessories can be used to complement and optimize X-ray protective clothing. Aprons can, for example, come with a thyroid collar to cover the neck area, or sleeves or a skirt for knee-length protection. Belts also allow the weight of the garment to be distributed more effectively between the shoulders and hips.
    • Users: X-ray protective clothing can be adapted for use by health care personnel or patients, adults or children, overweight or underweight people, etc.
    • Price: the price will depend on the type of garment as well as its composition. 100% lead garments are heavier than composite materials, but they are more affordable.
    MAVIG X-ray protective eye shield

    MAVIG X-ray protective glasses

  • What materials are used for X-ray protective clothing?

    X-ray protective clothing can either be made entirely of lead, of composite materials, or manufactured without lead.

    • 100% lead: this is the most common type of X-ray protective clothing. It is also often the cheapest. 100% lead garments offer optimum protection but are heavier than X-ray protective clothing made of other materials. They are very suitable for short procedures. The weight of the garment will vary depending on the size and the level of protection required.
    • Composite materials: these materials are in the form of leaded vinyl sheets or leaded rubber sheets that are incorporated into the garment. The thickness and number of layers determine the radiation protection index of the garment. These garments can be up to 25% lighter than traditional X-ray protective clothing made entirely of lead. They are therefore appropriate for procedures of a short to medium duration.
    • Lead-free: this type of garment is made up of additives and binders combined with radio-attenuating metals such as tin, antimony, tungsten, bismuth, etc. These garments can be recycled without any risk of poisoning. They are particularly suitable for lengthy procedures.
  • Why use X-ray protective clothing?

    Radiation from radioactive sources has different effects on the molecules, cells and tissues of the human body. The three main effects are:

    • Molecular effects: in a living cell, all molecules can be affected by radiation. DNA in particular can be significantly damaged by ionizing radiation.
    • Cellular effects: the consequences of DNA damage can lead to either the death or mutation of cells.
      • Death of cells: if few cells are destroyed then the organism heals itself; if a large number of cells are destroyed the organism survives but experiences persistent symptoms; and if too many cells are destroyed the organism dies.
      • Cell mutation: If a cell mutates, it can be naturally destroyed by the body’s immune system. In some cases it may survive but then it will lose a particular function or even become dysfunctional. Cellular dysfunction can cause cancer, infertility problems and other genetic effects.
    • Tissue effects: Tissue effects are often the consequence of the simultaneous destruction of a large number of cells.
  • Which parts of the body are the most radiosensitive?

    Not all cells in the human body have the same radiosensitivity. It is generally accepted that the radiosensitivity of a cell is proportional to its rate of cell division and inversely proportional to its level of differentiation (maturity). Stem cells, which are immature and undifferentiated, are thus highly radiosensitive. This means:

    • Highly radiosensitive: stem cells, lymphoid organs, bone marrow, blood, testicles, ovaries (gametes), intestines, skin and other organs with a layer of epithelial cells.
    • Moderately radiosensitive: the crystalline lens, stomach, growing cartilage and bones, the vascular system
    • Not very radiosensitive: mature cartilage and bones, salivary glands, respiratory organs, kidneys, liver, pancreas, muscles, brain
    Mavig X-ray protective thyroid collar

    Mavig X-ray protective thyroid collar

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