Why not shield?
You may notice that we no longer shield patients’ reproductive organs during imaging exams. We’ve made this change based on the best scientific evidence available and because it’s supported by multiple national medical organizations.
In the 1950s, doctors began to shield patients’ reproductive glands and pregnant women’s fetuses during medical imaging. At the time, medical experts were unsure of the long-term effects of radiation exposure to reproductive cells of the testes and ovaries and to an unborn fetus. They were also concerned damaged reproductive cells could be passed to future generations.
Based on more than 70 years of research, medical experts now know that shielding doesn’t help and could actually increase the amount of radiation used for the exam. Modern advancements in imaging technology capture better images using much less radiation. We also know more about how radiation affects the body and that some parts of the body, such as the testicles and ovaries, are less sensitive to radiation than we used to think. Scientific evidence shows that routine diagnostic imaging exams do not expose the patient or fetus to harmful levels of radiation. There is no evidence that shielding benefits patient health.
- Today’s better equipment uses much less radiation and operates differently than equipment of the past.
- Most modern X-ray, fluoroscopy and CT machines automatically determine how much radiation to use based on the body part being imaged. If a shield gets in the way, it can trick the machine into using more radiation than is needed.
- Scientific evidence shows that routine diagnostic imaging exams do not expose the patient or fetus to harmful levels of radiation.
- Modern digital X-ray systems use 95% less radiation than film X-rays of the past. The amount of radiation used in most imaging exams is so small that the risk to you or your child is either very small or zero. Shields provide negligible protection.
Changing a decades-old practice is not easy. If you’ve had imaging exams in the past where the practice of shielding was utilized, you may be fearful of not using a shield, and there is a lot of misinformation online making it difficult to find information you can trust.
This information comes from reputable sources and will help you understand why we no longer use lead shields during imaging exams.
If you have questions or concerns about your imaging exam, please talk with your radiologic technologist or doctor.