Special report: The changing world of radiation shielding

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

“We do a lot of fit and feasibility analysis,” says LeBlanc. “So we’ll come in, evaluate what exists, evaluate how much additional shielding is required. Generally, you can at least get some of it inside the room. Then you have to start getting creative with space that might be available.”

Bulking up shielding for different modalities can be challenging if there’s just not the space for it, Gilk says.

“If you thicken shielding on the inside of the room, it might take up needed space,” says Gilk. “If you thicken it outside, it will encroach on other spaces within the building.” When building a new facility or adding a wing to an existing one, Gilk recommends taking adjacent spaces into account to avoid future problems.

“You can protect people outside the exam room from accidental exposure and reduce shielding by placing non-occupied rooms immediately adjacent to the X-ray source room,” says Gilk. “With layout and design we can reduce the demands on shielding, which also has the benefit of future-proofing.”

Shielding experts can also take the time to determine if a combined shielding option would work better for the project and provide additional savings on shielding. For example, plastic can be used in conjunction with lead, which is very dense but also heavy and more expensive than some other materials.

“We do an awful amount of shielding where we’re using multiple materials to come up with the best overall solutions that meet the shielding needs,” says LeBlanc.

Break on through to the other side
If you’ve passed through a bi-parting sliding door at a hospital, you may not have known that you were moving through the latest in shielded door style. Facilities are choosing the newest door to hit the market both for space reasons and for their aesthetically pleasing look, companies say.

For one, sliding doors take up less space than their swinging counterparts.

“When we’re building out an OR for example we expect the construction cost to be $400, or more, a square foot,” says Gilk. “If we’re putting in a swinging door, then we have to allow twelve to fifteen feet for the door swing, that’s $6,000 worth of space for nothing more than a door swing, which is really hard to justify.” And with radiology construction costs close to those of ORs, Gilk says cost savings is one of the factors driving new shielded sliding doors.

Why haven’t facilities looked to sliding doors before now? Besides familiarity, Gilk says that building codes tended to treat sliding doors with greater restrictions than traditional swinging doors.

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