Ionising radiation exposure to orthopaedic trainees: the effect of sub-specialty training

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We monitored image intensifier use by orthopaedic trainees to assess their exposure to ionising radiation and to investigate the influence of sub-specialty training.


Five different orthopaedic registrars recorded their monthly image intensifier screening times and exposure doses for all cases (trauma and elective), for a combined total of 12 non-consecutive months. Radiation exposure was monitored using shoulder and waist film badges worn both by surgeons and radiographers screening their cases.


Registrars in spinal sub-specialties were exposed to significantly higher doses per case and cumulative doses per month than non-spinal trainees (P < 0.05), but significantly lower screening times per case (P < 0.05). There were no significant differences in cumulative screening times per month (P > 0.05). Regression analysis for all surgeons showed a significant relationship between shoulder film badge reading and cumulative dose exposed per month (P < 0.05), but not for cumulative screening time. Shoulder film badge recordings were significantly higher for spinal compared with non-spinal registrars (P < 0.05), although all badges were below the level for radiation reporting. Only one radiographer badge recorded a dose above threshold.


Whilst the long-term effects of sub-reporting doses of radiation are not fully understood, we consider that this study demonstrates that trainees should not be complacent in accepting inadequate radiation protection. The higher doses encountered with spinal imaging means that sub-specialty trainees should be alerted to the risk of their increased exposure. The principle of minimising radiation exposure must be maintained by all trainees at all times.

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