Radiation exposure, in the course of caring for patients, is of paramount interest to radiologists. So controlling the amount of radiation administered, and reducing the dose wherever possible, are ongoing goals to those of us who use it every day in the care and treatment of our patients. As an interventional radiologist, I deal with radiation exposure every day. Most of the time, the procedures that I perform involve relatively short exposure times. There are few procedures that may result in lengthy exposure times. I do everything possible to keep the exposure as low as reasonably achievable (ALARA), the American College of Radiology-sanctioned principle that guides all radiologists.
It is important to note that the radiation risks are real and affect not just the patient on the table in front of us, but also the physician and support staff standing next to them.
Nowadays, it is not just radiologists who perform fluoroscopic-guided procedures. Many different physician specialties have seen the remarkable benefits of imaging guidance. Traditionally, radiologists were the only physicians who had a lot of training with radiation. Now that image-guided procedures have become more widespread, patients need to be ever more aware that their treating physician has received appropriate training in radiation safety.
Radiologists are focused on reducing the amount of radiation exposure to both patients and health care workers alike. It is imperative that patients are aware and understand, not only that radiation exposure is necessary, but that the physician operating the equipment understands the risks and is adhering to the ALARA principle, helping to keep patients safe while treating them.
Fears arise through a lack of understanding, which is why proper education is so important. As an interventional radiologist, some of my goals are to help people understand the radiation risks, that the risks and benefits of every procedure must be appropriately considered, and that imaging (e.g. CT scans and fluoroscopy in the interventional suite) saves lives and will and should continue to play a huge part in our health care delivery.