Best Practice for Thyroid Protection

Radiation in medicine is commonplace. For those working in the field who must contend with daily exposure to radiation, protection is also a part of the commonplace safety measures in the workplace.

Physicians, technologists and nurses all have garments they can wear to protect themselves. Among the safety devices available include the following:

* Lead aprons
* Lead glasses
* Table drapes
* Patient shield
* Thyroid shield

The thyroid shield is a device that is available for both the patient during imaging procedures and the medical professional operating the X-ray equipment. However, many patients are not as much aware that this protection even exists.

Importance of Protecting the Thyroid

The thyroid gland is the key player in the body’s ability to regulate metabolism and to produce and use hormones. Located at the base of the neck below the Adam’s apple, this gland got its name from the Greek language for the shape it most resembled – a shield. Ironically, it is the one organ of the body that most needs to be shielded, due to its extreme sensitivity to radiation exposure.

Continued exposure to radiation without throat protection over time will certainly result in loss of thyroid function. Such failure will be evidenced by a condition known as hypothyroidism where the gland is no longer capable of producing sufficient hormones for the body to continue to function properly.

Symptoms of Hypothyroidism

Some of the symptoms of hypothyroidism are not as distinguishable for their commonality with other conditions, such as fatigue and irritability. Depression might be attributed to the weight gain, but when the memory loss and hair loss are factored in, it becomes rather clear that something is significantly wrong. In some rare cases, continual unshielded exposure to radiation can result in developing thyroid cancer.

Protection Options

Healthcare workers have a variety of choices of protection they can wear while working. It is important to wear something that will not restrict the ability to move while performing on the job yet is something that can be easily removed. It needs to fit tightly enough to ensure the wearer is properly protected. Some are made with hook and loop tape, while others have buckle fasteners.

Sizing on these protection collars is a one-size-fits-all approach, while it is possible to get them oversized so those with larger necks will have additional protection. For convenience, these collars can be attached to the lead apron to serve as a reminder to wear it. The thyroid shield should be a regular part of the radiation protection wardrobe for all healthcare workers who are responsible for X-ray imaging.

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