Special report: The changing world of radiation shielding

by Nancy Ryerson, Staff Writer | September 20, 2013
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From the September 2013 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

Hybrid ORs and imaging equipment mash-ups like PET/MR create new possibilities for screening and treatments. But complex systems create more complex problems to solve — from staff training, to reimbursement questions, to maintenance and even adjustments to the type of shielding used for the rooms housing the equipment.

“The OEMs are marrying modalities, so they’re setting up these interventional or intraoperative suites that will involve several different pieces of equipment,” says Joel Kellogg, product line manager at shielding company ETS-Lindgren. “That’s what’s driving lead requirements in what had traditionally been RF shielded rooms.”

ETS-Lindgren generally specializes in RF and MRI shielding, but has been receiving more requests for radiation shielding as well.

New modalities and increasingly complicated rooms are creating the need for more creative shielding solutions, and better planning to get ready for whatever the next iteration of popular modalities will be. From doors to floors, shielding experts shared what facilities should look for when building a protected and long-term sustainable room.

Prior planning and future-proofing
Experts warn that creating a shielding plan that accounts for new modalities can take longer and be more complex than in the past.

For example, when creating a shielding plan for a facility that was using MRI along with radiation therapy, Rick LeBlanc, president of shielding company Nelco Worldwide, says it was a more than 12 month research and development process working with the manufacturers and hospitals.

LeBlanc recommends involving a physicist early in the design to potentially save money on shielding, and to make sure you don’t have any plans for a room that simply won’t work.

The addition of new equipment creates a challenge especially when the room is already built, but doesn’t have enough shielding or the appropriate kind of shielding to deal with the update.

“The shift from a strictly diagnostic center has really got the industry all confused,” says Tobias Gilk, senior vice president at consulting company RAD-Planning. “We’re trying to figure out how to integrate existing diagnostic tools with new interventional clinical operations, while at the same time, no one wants to take the CT offline to add hand sinks to the room.”

“We’re seeing facilities who put in what were, at the time, contemporary linear accelerators, but now they have the contemporary ones that have a greater demand for shielding,” says Gilk.

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