Fluoroscopic radiation exposure: are we protecting ourselves adequately?

J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2015 May 6;97(9):721-5. doi: 10.2106/JBJS.N.00839.


Background: While traditional intraoperative fluoroscopy protection relies on thyroid shields and aprons, recent data suggest that the surgeon's eyes and hands receive more exposure than previously appreciated. Using a distal radial fracture surgery model, we examined (1) radiation exposure to the eyes, thyroid, chest, groin, and hands of a surgeon mannequin; (2) the degree to which shielding equipment can decrease exposure; and (3) how exposure varies with fluoroscopy unit size.

Methods: An anthropomorphic model was fit with radiation-attenuating glasses, a thyroid shield, an apron, and gloves. "Exposed" thermoluminescent dosimeters overlaid the protective equipment at the eyes, thyroid, chest, groin, and index finger while "shielded" dosimeters were placed beneath the protective equipment. Fluoroscopy position and settings were standardized. The mini-c-arm milliampere-seconds were fixed based on the selection of the kilovolt peak (kVp). Three mini and three standard c-arms scanned a model of the patient's wrist continuously for fifteen minutes each. Ten dosimeter exposures were recorded for each c-arm.

Results: Hand exposure averaged 31 μSv/min (range, 22 to 48 μSv/min), which was 13.0 times higher than the other recorded exposures. Eye exposure averaged 4 μSv/min, 2.2 times higher than the mean thyroid, chest, and groin exposure. Gloves reduced hand exposure by 69.4%. Glasses decreased eye exposure by 65.6%. There was no significant difference in exposure between mini and standard fluoroscopy.

Conclusions: Surgeons' hands receive the most radiation exposure during distal radial plate fixation under fluoroscopy. There was a small but insignificant difference in mean exposure between standard fluoroscopy and mini-fluoroscopy, but some standard units resulted in lower exposure than some mini-units. On the basis of these findings, we recommend routine protective equipment to mitigate exposure to surgeons' hands and eyes, in addition to the thyroid, chest, and groin, during fluoroscopy procedures.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Eye / radiation effects
  • Eyeglasses
  • Fluoroscopy / adverse effects*
  • General Surgery*
  • Hand / radiation effects
  • Humans
  • Intraoperative Period
  • Models, Biological
  • Occupational Exposure
  • Radiation Dosage
  • Radiation Protection
  • Radiometry
  • Thyroid Gland / radiation effects