If you’re a radiology professional, it’s important to know when to use a thyroid shield to protect yourself and your patients. The thyroid gland influences nearly every metabolic process in the body. It’s also highly susceptible to radiation-induced cancer. The CDC reports that approximately 60,000 cases are diagnosed annually, predominantly in women. Sadly, more than 2,000 people die every year from thyroid cancer.
In the USA, the incidence of thyroid cancer is increasing faster than any other type. Repeated exposure and increasing use of higher dosage CT scans could be driving this dramatic upswing. Specialized protection is critical.
The Importance of a Thyroid Collar
Diagnostic and therapeutic procedures such as x-rays, fluoroscopy, and CT scans all produce hazardous scatter radiation. Your risk is elevated if you’re a physician, dentist, veterinarian, or radiographer who performs these procedures. As the effects of radiation are cumulative, remember to account for repeated exposure over your career.
Any radiation exposure must always be minimized in line with the ALARA Principle (As Low As Reasonably Achievable) and its three tenets. These are the time of exposure, distance from the source, and shielding. A thyroid collar is part of your personal protective equipment (PPE) to meet the tenet of shielding. Not only does it cover your sensitive thyroid gland, but the added protection increases the length of time that you can be exposed. This means you can take on more procedures, help more patients, and boost your productivity.
Thyroid protection also helps to maximize safety for your patients. It’s your responsibility to provide a thyroid collar during any x-ray procedure where the thyroid is in the field of view, or very close to the primary beamline. A clear example is during dental radiography. Thyroid collars are highly recommended as a preventative measure to reassure your patients that everything possible is being done to avert harm.
An extremely important consideration is the use of thyroid collars for pediatric patients. Children under 15 are most susceptible to mutagenic radiation, as they are still growing and developing. Thyroid collars can prevent the occurrence of thyroid cancer that may develop years after radiation exposure in childhood.
When to Use a Thyroid Shield?
If you are working with radiation every day, then wearing a thyroid shield cover along with your protective lead apron and other PPE should be second nature to you. This is the best way to reduce your risk of thyroid cancer.
However, shielding your patients is a bit more of a gray area. The American Thyroid Association (ATA) puts forward recommendations on when to use a thyroid collar during x-rays. These are as follows:
There are no studies that link low-dose mammography with an increased risk of thyroid cancer. Actually, thyroid collars may increase false positives or imaging artifacts, reducing the quality of tests. Therefore, the ATA doesn’t support the use of thyroid shields for mammography.
2. CT Scans and Other Diagnostic Radiographs:
These procedures are concerning potential cancer risks. CT scans typically use higher radiation doses than conventional x-rays. These levels have shown clinical relevance in studies. The goal should be to reduce thyroid exposure as much as possible, in line with the ALARA Principle. Consequently, the thyroid should be protected from exposure with shielding wherever possible.
3. Diagnostic Dental Radiology:
In case-control studies, cancer sufferers are more likely to report prior dental x-rays than people with no cancer. Although no study to date has unequivocally linked dental radiography to the incidence of thyroid cancer, this lack of data doesn’t preclude the possibility of actual risk. The ATA deems it prudent to use shielding to reduce thyroidal radiation exposure as much as possible, and stringently in children.
Understanding Your Thyroid Shield’s Efficacy
Here are some questions to ask when choosing a thyroid shield for the best possible protection and fit:
Some shields just wrap around your neck, or the core material doesn’t adequately cover the base of your throat where the thyroid gland is located.
A loose fit doesn’t necessarily mean less protection. Some thyroid guards are designed to allow you to move your head up and down. Find the style that you feel comfortable wearing.
There is no point in having tiny holes that let radiation through exactly where you need shielding! Select a less risky design.
To prevent hospital-acquired infections (HAI), it’s essential that the fabric is impervious and can be cleaned with disinfectant.
Most thyroid shields use Velcro closures. These can accumulate lint and sweat and are difficult to clean.
Barrier Technologies® offers you several options in the following categories:
Choose from standard lead, lead-lite composite, or completely lead-free. (Remember that lead is toxic and requires special disposal protocols.) All our core materials are available in 0.5mm lead equivalent protection.
We manufacture our patented antibacterial/stain resistant UltraFlex™ fabric for superior hygiene and durability.
Our range includes:
- Boomerang Thyroid Shield: A comfortable, easy-to-clean collar.
- Visor Thyroid Shield: Enhanced neck covering for increased protection.
- Disposable Thyroid Shield: Ideal for facilities with frequent staff rotation, and patient use.
We have eliminated the use of Velcro with our revolutionary MagnaGuard™ magnetic closures. This ease-of-use, superior technology mitigates the risk of dangerous infections.
It’s essential that you understand when to use a thyroid shield. This collar is a vital part of your PPE to protect you and your patients against developing thyroid cancer. If you spend long hours in a radiological environment, you must select a style that is comfortable to wear and work in.
Barrier Technologies has spent years researching and developing the most effective, easy-to-wear, and user-friendly thyroid shields. Trust us to protect you against the hazardous effects of scatter radiation. Our expert consultants are available to offer you advice and discuss your options. Contact us today.