Potential Infection Risk From Thyroid Radiation Protection

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Thyroid shields that are worn for personal radiation protection in the operating room are often exposed above the sterile gown and are likely a bacterial source of wound infections. We would like to determine what bacteria may be present on the portion of the thyroid shield, which is facing the operative table.


Community thyroid shields were collected from around the operative rooms. The shields were then cultured on the side, which faces the patient and operative table. The shields where then cleaned with a readily available cleaner and again cultured to evaluate the reduction of bacterial load. Samples were cultured on nonselective media for 72 hours.


Thirty-two total thyroid shields were cultured before and after cleaning. Before cleaning, 81% of thyroid shields grew out at least 1 type of bacteria with 90% being coagulase negative staphylococcus. Postcleaning culturable contamination was reduced by 70% (P < 0.05).


The thyroid shield that is often visible above the neckline is contaminated with strains of bacteria that are commonly implicated in postoperative infections. Cleaning the thyroid shield with readily available cleaners can significantly reduce the bacterial burden as detectable by culture. Based on the primary research question, this article is a basic science article.

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