X-Ray Shielding Guidelines

The Department of Radiology at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health (D-HH) is following x-ray shielding guidelines provided by the American Association of Physicists in Medicine that recommend limiting the use of routine lead shielding during an x-ray. This guidance has been endorsed by numerous organizations, including the American College of Radiology.

We know you may have questions surrounding this change. Therefore, we have included some frequently asked questions below. If you still have questions about this procedure or would prefer to use a lead shield during your x-ray, please let your provider or radiologist know.

Frequently asked questions

Why is D-HH no longer shielding patients?

Studies have shown that shielding patients provides very little to no benefit. This is because lead only protects you from radiation outside of your body, not inside. Therefore, when a patient receives an x-ray, we take care to expose only the area necessary for the exam.

Why have patients been shielded with lead during x-ray exposures?

There was a concern that x-rays may lead to birth defects in future children or infertility. However, this has been shown to not be true at the levels of x-ray that are used during the exam.

What is the risk of radiation from imaging?

The amount of radiation you are exposed to during an x-ray is so small that the risk of cell damage is extremely low. The benefit to you will almost always exceed the risk of the x-ray.

What is D-HH doing to keep radiation exposure low?

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health is invested in keeping the radiation dose to our patients as low as possible. Therefore, we keep our equipment up-to-date, which reduces radiation per image. Our technologists and physicians are trained to use the smallest amount of radiation necessary for the exam. We also consider using non-radiation options (such as ultrasound or MRI) when appropriate.

Why are D-HH staff wearing shielding during my exam?

Since the x-ray staff are exposed to radiation all day, every day, it is better for them to continue to wear shielding to help protect them from the external radiation.

Can shielding actually increase radiation exposure?

Sometimes the shield gets in the way of the x-ray image. If this happens, then multiple x-rays may need to be done, which could increase your radiation exposure.

What if I am pregnant? How about for children?

The answer is the same for pregnant and non-pregnant adults as well as for children. Shielding does not provide a significant benefit to pediatric patients or unborn children. Children typically receive lower dose x-rays, and specific pediatric protocols are used.

What should I do if I have questions regarding radiation safety?

You may discuss any concerns you have with your doctor, or you may request to speak to a radiologist. The Dartmouth-Hitchcock Radiation Safety Officer (RSO) can also be reached via telephone at 603-650-6182.