Radiation protection: why should we care

By Dr. M.Shoaib Khan Ghory
Consultant Radiologist Chiniot general hospital

What is Radiation • Radiation is a process in which energetic particles or energetic waves travel through a medium or space. . • The radiation can either be natural or artificial. • Natural causes include the cosmic rays and natural radioactivity in our surroundings. • Artificial sources include the nuclear reactors and the medical sources.

. • The diagnostic can again be loosely divided into xray sources and the gamma ray sources.• Medical sources can further be divided into therapeutic and diagnositc.

that they were not deflected by magnetic fields. 1895. projected far beyond the possible range of the cathode rays. Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen (accidentally) discovered an image cast from his cathode ray generator. • Further investigation showed that the rays were generated at the point of contact of the cathode ray beam on the interior of the vacuum tube.Discovery of X-rays • On 8 Nov. and they penetrated many kinds of matter. .

The first radiograph .

. and radiation accidents in various parts of the world.Radiation side effects • There are many examples of radiation induced damage: to the skin and the hands suffered by the early radiologists: excess leukemias in patients treated with radiation for ankylosing spondilitis.

• Two types of radiation are commonly differentiated in the way they interact with normal chemical matter: • Ionizing and • Non-ionizing radiation. .

• Both ionizing and non-ionizing radiation can be harmful to organisms and can result in changes to the natural environment. have the potential to cause DNA damage. however. . even at low radiation powers. radiation having sufficient energy to ionize an atom). since the ions that are produced by ionizing radiation.Ionizing vs Non ionizing • The word radiation is often colloquially used in reference to ionizing radiation (i.. ionizing radiation is far more harmful to living organisms per unit of energy deposited than non-ionizing radiation.e. In general. • Ionizing an atom means that an electron is completely removed from its shell.

• By contrast. and is conventionally considered harmless at low powers which do not produce significant temperature rise. most non-ionizing radiation is harmful to organisms only in proportion to the thermal energy deposited. .

Example are cataracts. skin damage. bone marrow cell loss and sterility.Biological effects • Two categories of radiation effect: – Somatic effects which occur in the individual exposed and – Genetic or hereditary effects which occur in the descendants as a result of lesion in the germ line of the exposed person • Somatic effects can be further divided into – deterministic and – the stochastic effects • Deterministic effects are directly related to the amount of radiation given and has a threshold level. .

There is no threshold for these effects.• Stochastic effects occur when radiation doses are very small. Here the probability of effects not the severity increases with dose. .

A little bit of terminology • Absorbed dose: is a measure of the energy deposited in a medium by ionizing radiation per unit mass. gray (Gy). • Equivalent dose: is a measure of the radiation absorbed by a fixed mass of biological tissue. It is measured as joules per kilogram and represented by the equivalent SI unit. • Effective dose: is the radiation dose to a part of the body which has the same effective danger or risk to a person or organism as the same equivalent dose of radiation to the whole-body. .that attempts to account for the different biological damage potential of different types of ionizing radiation.

To allow for this.• For example when radiation interacts with living tissue the effect it has varies with the type of radiation. the dose in grays is multiplied by an effectiveness factor and the new units are called sieverts (abbreviation Sv) and the dose is called the equivalent dose . gamma or X-rays at causing tissue damage. Alpha rays are 20 times more effective than beta.

who were exposed to high doses incurred in a very short time. Much of the evidence which has led to today's standards derives from the atomic bomb survivors in 1945.Steps taken for protection • System of radiation protection was proposed by the international commission on radiological protection (ICRP) which many countries have incorporated into their legislation. .

• Three fundamental principles – Justification – Optimization – limitation .

No practice should be adopted unless its introduction produces a positive net benefit.• Justification. . All exposures should be kept as low as reasonably achievable. • Limitation. The exposure of individuals should not exceed the limits recommended for the appropriate circumstances. economic and social factors being taken into account. • Optimization.

• National radiation protection standards are based on ICRP recommendations for both Occupational and Public exposure categories. .

generally in line with recommendations by the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP).taking into account social and economic factors. .• In any country. and coupled with the requirement to keep exposure as low as reasonably achievable (ALARA) . radiation protection standards are set by government authorities.

and exclude medical exposure. In both categories. the figures are over and above background levels. For public exposure. .• The ICRP recommends that the maximum permissible dose for occupational exposure should be 20 millisievert per year averaged over five years (ie 100 millisievert in 5 years. about 8 time average dose from natural background) with a maximum of 50 millisievert in any one year. 1 millisievert per year averaged over five years is the limit.

Responsibilities • As a – Physician – Radiologist • Towards – Patient – Co workers – General public .

• Justification – is the examination justified. • Are the standard patient exposure below the national reference values. if yes will the exposure benefit the patient’s diagnosis and the management. . • Optimization – Is the correct examination chosen and the procedures followed so that the optimum diagnostic images is obtained. • If the questions to these is in a YES then we have minimized the risk to the patient and the staff. • Limitation – Is the staff adequately protected during the procedure.

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