Tracking Cumulative Radiation Exposure in Orthopaedic Surgeons and Residents: What Dose Are We Getting?

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Abstract

Background:

The purpose of this study was to determine the amount of cumulative radiation exposure received by orthopaedic surgeons and residents in various subspecialties. We obtained dosimeter measures over 12 months on 24 residents and 16 attending surgeons.

Methods:

Monthly radiation exposure was measured over a 12-month period for 24 orthopaedic residents and 16 orthopaedic attending surgeons. The participants wore a Landauer Luxel dosimeter on the breast pocket of their lead apron. The dosimeters were exchanged every rotation (5 to 7 weeks) for the resident participants and every month for the attending surgeon participants. Radiation exposure was compared by orthopaedic subspecialty, level of training, and type of fluoroscopy used (regular C-arm compared with mini C-arm).

Results:

Orthopaedic residents participating in this study received monthly mean radiation exposures of 0.2 to 79 mrem/month, lower than the dose limits of 5,000 mrem/year recommended by the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (U.S. NRC). Senior residents rotating on trauma were exposed to the highest monthly radiation (79 mrem/month [range, 15 to 243 mrem/month]) compared with all other specialty rotations (p < 0.001). Similarly, attending orthopaedic surgeons who specialize in trauma or deformity surgery received the highest radiation exposure of their peers, and the mean exposure was 53 mrem/month (range, 0 to 355 mrem/month).

Conclusions:

Residents and attending surgeons performing trauma or deformity surgical procedures are exposed to significantly higher doses of radiation compared with all other subspecialties within orthopaedic surgery, but the doses are still within the recommended limits.

Clinical Relevance:

The use of ionizing radiation in the operating room has become an indispensable part of orthopaedic surgery. Although all surgeons in our study received lower than the yearly recommended dose limit, it is important to be aware of how much radiation we are exposed to as surgeons and to take measures to further limit that exposure.

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