SAFETYmatters - Proper Use and Storage of Lead Aprons

Lead Apron
Article published 11/01/18
 

For individuals who perform x-ray examinations or work in rooms where x-rays are used, lead aprons can reduce radiation exposure to an individual by over 90%.  The use of lead aprons becomes even more important as the number of procedures you are involved in increases, the distance between you and the x-ray field decreases, and if you are involved in fluoroscopically-guided x-ray procedures.  The use of protective equipment during fluoroscopy cases is especially important because the x-ray beam stays on for an extended period time.  Unlike a simple radiographic exam like a chest x-ray where the beam is on for only a fraction of a second, fluoroscopic exams can involve the x-ray beam being on for minutes at a time.  Total x-ray beam on-time for some fluoroscopy procedures can be 30-60 minutes or more.  The amount of scatter radiation near the source of x-rays (i.e. the procedure table), especially for cases involving higher fluoro times, can result in elevated staff radiation doses.  For staff involved in fluoroscopy procedures, use of lead apron and thyroid shields is very important.  As stated above, consistent use of these shields reduces radiation exposure substantially, keeping staff dose as low as practical.

To ensure that lead aprons and thyroid shields provide the best protection possible, it is very important to store them properly.  Improper storage can lead to creases, and eventually cracks in the lead, which diminishes its protection factor.  Special racks and hangers are provided in nearly all x-ray use areas, and are designed to hang aprons and shields without creasing or folding them.  If an apron hanger is not available in your area, you can use a regular clothes hanger (just make sure where you hang the apron can handle the weight) or even lay the apron flat on a counter or desk.  

The illustration below demonstrates the wrong and right way to store your lead aprons and thyroid shields:
Folded - WRONG Hanging - CORRECT
Messy Lead Aprons
Hanging Lead Aprons

Email any questions related to the use or storage of x-ray protective equipment to ehs-contact@uiowa.edu.