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Shielding sex organs
for X-rays

 

St. Jude Diagnostic Imaging staff will not regularly use lead shields to cover patients’ sex organs for X-rays. In the past, lead shields were used to protect the gonads (sex organs: testes and ovaries) or a fetus (baby) if the patient might be pregnant.

Research studies show this shielding does not help and might cause other problems.

Why use radiation for imaging?

Many medical images use small amounts of radiation to take pictures inside the body. These images are a useful tool for diagnosing health problems. Radiation also can harm healthy tissues and organs. During X-rays, the body absorbs some radiation. When the St. Jude medical staff orders an X-ray, the benefits of the test are greater than the small risk of using radiation for the test.

Who recommends not shielding?

The American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM) and the American College of Radiology (ACR) both recommend not using patient gonadal and fetal shielding during X-ray imaging. Both groups strive to make these tests as safe as possible for patients.

Why do AAPM and ACR recommend no shielding?

Shielding provides little to no health benefit

Research shows radiation doses used in diagnostic imaging cause little to no harm to sex organs and fetuses.

Modern digital X-ray systems use less radiation than film X-rays used in the past.

The area in the body doctors are trying to view on an X-ray is not the only place receiving radiation. Some X-rays bounce around and travel beyond the intended area. This is called “scatter.” Scatter can give a small radiation dose to other organs in the body. Studies show using a shield outside the body to protect the sex organs does not reduce scatter within the body.

Shielding can make imaging less useful and increase radiation to the patient

Sometimes, shielding can cover parts of the body doctors are trying to see in the image. If this happens, the X-ray does not give the best image for diagnosing illness. So, the staff might need to repeat the X-ray.

Modern medical X-ray machines adjust the amount of radiation they use while taking pictures. If a shield is present, the machine might not adjust properly and could use more radiation than needed. This can increase the patient’s radiation dose. It can also reduce image quality. 

Protecting family members

Sometimes a family member is allowed to stay in the X-ray room with the patient. St. Jude staff will continue to require family members to wear lead aprons during these tests. It will shield them from any X-rays that scatter away from the patient.

Can you still shield my child?

Yes. Even though experts no longer recommend shielding, the staff can use a shield at your request to help calm a patient or family from any fear or anxiety.

Questions?

Do you have questions about radiation use in X-rays or why patient shielding is not used during these tests? Talk with your doctor, nurse, or the medical physicist on staff.

This document is not intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Our aim is to promote active participation in your care and treatment by providing information and education. Questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options should be discussed with your physician.

St. Jude complies with health care-related federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.

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