Ionizing radiation can penetrate the skin and interact with living tissues, causing damage at the cellular level. If surgeons do not wear proper radiation protection gloves while performing procedures that involve exposure to ionizing radiation (such as fluoroscopy-guided surgeries or interventional radiology procedures), they are at risk of developing radiation-related injuries to their hands.
The most common radiation-related injury to the hands is called radiation burns, characterized by redness, swelling, and skin irritation. Over time, repeated exposure to radiation without protection can lead to severe effects, including:
- Burns: Prolonged exposure to ionizing radiation can cause thermal burns on the skin, which is similar to sunburn but is more severe.
- Skin Ulcers: Radiation can damage blood vessels and reduce blood flow to the affected area, leading to the formation of ulcers.
- Tissue Damage and Necrosis: In severe cases, radiation can cause damage to blood vessels and tissues, leading to tissue death (necrosis). This can result in non-healing wounds and potential complications
- Carcinogenesis: Prolonged exposure to ionizing radiation increases the risk of developing cancerous cells in the affected area, though this risk may take many years to manifest.
- Radiation Burn or Radiation Dermatitis: As mentioned earlier, radiation burn can occur due to repeated exposure to ionizing radiation. It leads to redness, irritation, and swelling of the skin on the hands.
- Chronic Skin Changes: Over time, the skin on the hands may become dry, cracked, and discolored due to radiation exposure without proper protection.
To prevent these injuries, it is crucial for surgeons and other medical professionals working with ionizing radiation to wear appropriate radiation protection gear, including lead equivalent gloves. These gloves are designed to shield the hands from radiation exposure and reduce the risk of radiation-related injuries. Medical facilities should implement strict safety protocols and guidelines to ensure that radiation exposure is kept as low as reasonably achievable (ALARA principle) to protect patients and medical personnel.
Additionally, adherence to safety protocols and guidelines for radiation exposure is crucial to ensure the well-being of both medical professionals and patients.