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Considerations before a radiation shielding project

by Lauren Dubinsky, Senior Reporter | October 11, 2021
Business Affairs X-Ray
From the October 2021 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine


“It would be a costly mistake not to reach out to a physicist,” said Bordeman. “The construction guys are going to over-shield the room or under-shield the room and in both scenarios it’s going to be very expensive for the end-user.”

If the area next to the room is a storage facility that’s only accessed once per year, the wall in between won’t need as much shielding compared to a case where there was an office on the other side.

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Alternatively, if a facility is under-shielded and a meter determines that radiation is scattering out everywhere, they won’t be able to admit any patients until this problem is fixed. That could involve rebuilding the facility again, which can cost double what it would have cost if it was built correctly.

Things to consider when choosing a material
Space, source strength and attenuation need to be considered when selecting a shielding material. The main shielding materials used in construction today for diagnostic imaging are lead, gypsum or drywall and concrete, which sometimes includes added materials to increase the attenuation.

“Lead will be for the smaller spaces, but if you’re dealing with high doses then there is high-density concrete,” said Cory Aitken, western senior sales technician at MarShield. “It’s a less expensive product, but it takes up a lot of room.”

In many cases concrete is adequate, but lead is still oftentimes needed, according to ECRI’s Launders.

Historically, lead is associated with toxicity concerns, but that’s no longer a problem once it’s sealed inside the walls. The risk comes into play when the lead is being manipulated during the building or dismantling process.

“Obviously safety protocols needed to be followed when installing or dismantling rooms,” said Launders. “However, the rooms are normally in place for many years and even if the room is used for a different purpose, then the lead won't hurt. Lead is stable, it doesn't release any toxic gases.”

People are attracted to lead because of its lower price point, but long-term costs need to be taken into consideration as well.

“Twenty years down the road when you’re closing down your shop or renovating, the lead has to be taken out and handled in a specific manner, which adds costs,” said Aitken.

Another important thing to consider is how much time you have available for the construction process. If time is limited, prefabricated products may be the way to go, even though they are the more expensive option.

MarShield manufactures pre-fabricated lead-lined wall panels that can be attached to existing walls. The EZ Quick X-ray Shielding Panels can be installed in hours and can be easily rearranged or removed.

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