Catheter-based technology has enabled the minimally invasive treatment of conditions that previously required invasive surgery. Since the emergence of the cardiac catheterization laboratory in the 1980s, the use of percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) has grown exponentially to treat millions of Americans with life-threatening cardiac disease or congenital defects. Minimally invasive procedures have also been developed to treat cardiac rhythm disorders, peripheral vascular disease, and neurovascular conditions. The trade-off for these less-invasive procedures is typically viewed in terms of patient outcomes compared to open surgery. However, an unforeseen trade-off relates to the health of the medical professionals who perform these procedures and who are exposed to procedure-related ionizing (low-dose) radiation.
Ionizing radiation exposure in the United States rose 74%, on a per-capita basis, from the early 1980s to 2006, with nearly half of the exposure related to medical imaging.1 There have been reports of malignant brain tumors in the left hemisphere for interventional cardiologists2 who are subjected to radiation exposure rates that are two to ten times higher than those experienced by other medical specialties and correlate with the physician’s proximity to the radiation source in the cath lab.3 Sustained exposure to low-dose radiation is causing other serious adverse health consequences—including the development of several cancer types, pre-mature development of cataracts, onset of thyroid disease, and damage to reproductive organs—for interventional medical teams.
The Organization for Occupational Radiation Safety in Interventional Fluoroscopy was founded to raise awareness of the serious radiation and musculoskeletal hazards associated with working in interventional fluoroscopy laboratories, and generate support for medical professionals and hospitals for new and better ways to create the safest work environment possible for those dedicated to the wellness of others.
- Center for Devices and Radiological Health & U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Initiative to Reduce Unnecessary Radiation Exposure from Medical Imaging (February 2010).
- A. Roguin, et al, Brain and Neck Tumors among Physicians Performing Interventional Procedures. 111 American Journal of Cardiology 9: 1368-72 (May 2013).
- E. Picano, et al, Occupational Risks of Chronic Low Dose Radiation Exposure in Cardiac Catheterisation Laboratory: The Italian Healthy Cath Lab Study, European Medical Journal International, 50-58 (2013).