Working in the Cath Lab Causes Heart Disease

Radiation Safety (Still) Matters

In February, ACVP blog reported on a survey that showed non-physician Cath Lab employees, ACVP members, reporting higher levels of musculoskeletal pain due to radiation exposure and lead apron use.

In April, SCAI released a membership survey with almost 50 percent of responders reporting orthopedic injuries, and there has been "no discernible improvement" since a similar survey was collected in 2004.

There's more bad news. A new study published this week links radiation in the Cath Lab to subclinical atherosclerosis. That's right, working in the Cath Lab can cause cardiovascular disease.

The study calculated a radiological risk score based on proximity to radiation source, caseload, and the length of employment, and there was a significant correlation between this measure and carotid intima-media thickness on the left side, not on the right, which provides "further support for a causal connection."

What's being done?

  • Cath Labs are adopting new technologies, though not aggressively.

From the SCAI member survey: With regard to radiation protection, the majority of responders reported incorporating only 2 new technologies: lightweight lead (71.9%) and low-dose imaging systems (55.3%). More than 30% reported using some sort of cranial protection, but less than 10% said they use zero-gravity systems, shielded gloves, or vascular robotic technology. However, 93% expressed openness to adopting new, even awkward, technologies if they offered improved radiation protection.

Lightweight lead and low-dose imaging systems seem to be the logical jumping-off point for Cath Labs, though the high rate of openness to adopting new technologies suggests that Cath Lab employees want more protection.

Vascular robotics like Corindus's technology we profiled in March has yet to gain a significant foothold, though it improves efficiency and drastically reduces radiation exposure.

  • Advocacy, Awareness, Education

The Alliance of Cardiovascular Professionals is continuing its efforts to educate and raise awareness of this issue. Do you want more resources to raise awareness in your organization?

Let us know

ACVP's regional meeting in Indianapolis on May 16 will feature a session on radiation safety you won't want to miss. Looking to start a discussion in your organization? Bring your colleagues to the meeting.

A new organization also entered the field to focus specifically on this issue. On April 7, the Organization for Occupational Radiation Safety in Interventional Fluoroscopy (ORSIF) was launched to raise awareness of health risks linked to the use of fluoroscopy in Cath Labs.

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