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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


“If you’re using a lead-type shielding it’s an excellent shielding material for photons, but a terrible shielding material for neutrons in terms of shielding effectiveness,” said Robert J. Farrell, CEO of Veritas Medical Solution.

When determining the time and money involved in a project, Veritas needs to know the workload of the machine, the occupancy outside of the room and how often the radiation will be pointing at a particular barrier.

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A typical linear accelerator rotates in a single plane around 360 degrees, and the primary radiation is coming out within a defined path around that arc. Accuray’s CyberKnife machine can point anywhere except straight up, so there is a primary barrier anywhere within the room.

For a typical use-factor on a linac, one-fifth of the time it would be pointing at the east wall, one-fifth at the west wall, one-fifth at the ceiling, one-fifth at the floor. The use factor with the CyberKnife is about one-twentieth because it can point anywhere.

When asked what Veritas’ quickest project was, Farrell said it took about three weeks, but that this isn’t the norm. The client had investment milestones that had to be met, and their original plan to pour concrete was going to lose them money because they couldn’t make those commitments.

“We were able to step in and do the engineering and physics in about three weeks, which involved putting the full gas toward it,” said Farrell. “Shipping the materials and getting them installed was done in about three weeks.”

Typically, a project can take three to five years just for the design process. For a project planned for 2025, Veritas is starting the design phase now by selecting the shielding material that is required for the equipment the facility wants.

Farrell cautions facilities to know what machines they want before building the facility. He is currently working with groups that want to build the facility before they select the equipment and it’s a problematic situation.

“They’re building it in such a way that might become more expensive because they are designing it for the worst-case scenario,” said Farrell. “They could have saved some money had they planned it out a little better.”

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