Fluoroscopy radiation safety for spine interventional pain procedures in university teaching hospitals

Pain Physician. 2005 Jan;8(1):49-53.


Background: Fluoroscopic guidance is frequently utilized in performing various types of interventional techniques. The major purpose of fluoroscopy is accurate needle placement to ensure target specificity and accurate delivery of the injected drug. However, radiation exposure may be associated with risks to physician, patient, and personnel. Multiple studies have evaluated the risk of radiation exposure and techniques to reduce the risk in private practice settings. However, the literature is scant in evaluating the risk of radiation exposure in teaching hospitals in university settings.

Objective: To evaluate safety and duration of radiation exposure for fluoroscopy guided interventional pain procedures in university pain clinics.

Study design: Retrospective, case study.

Methods: The data was reviewed from the fluoroscopy machines from March 2004 to April 2004 at two university pain clinics. Mean fluoroscopy time (FT), mean radiation dose per procedure, and utilization of pulsed fluoroscopy were analyzed.

Results: Data of a total of 165 cases of spine injection procedures were collected. The mean fluoroscopy time for lumbar epidural steroid injection, facet joint block, sympathetic nerve block, sacroiliac joint injection, and discography were 46.6 +/- 4.2; 81.5 +/- 12.8; 64.4 +/- 11; 50.6 +/- 41.9 and 146.8 + 25.1 seconds respectively. There were significant differences in fluoroscopy exposure times and radiation dosage for epidural steroid injection among different teaching physicians. Pulsed fluoroscopy was used in less than 10% of cases.

Conclusion: The results of this study show that the fluoroscopy exposure time for various interventional procedures performed in the university settings are significantly higher than the radiation exposure periods in private practice settings. This study also showed significant differences among physicians in the same university setting.