By Rusty Lundberg
When you’re sitting in the dental chair, you’re probably more concerned about cavities than the X-rays your dentist uses to detect them. It’s easy to forget that dental and medical X-rays deliver the majority of our exposure to man made radiation. New radiation survey meters used by Division of Radiation Control (DRC) inspectors have shortened the time it takes to check this kind of X-ray inspections equipment, improving operational inefficiencies and safeguarding patients from unnecessary radiation exposure from these procedures.
Our X-ray inspection program ensures that facilities with X-ray equipment in Utah have an effective radiation safety program that keeps patient exposure to radiation As Low As Reasonably Achievable (ALARA). Our inspectors make sure that each X-ray unit performs properly and produces high quality images that provide accurate diagnostic information while minimizing exposure.
Back in the 1970’s, the provided us with our original “gold standard” survey equipment. While it provided extremely high-quality results, this survey meter was heavy and bulky, required two separate pieces of equipment, and took considerable time to set up. Our new survey meter is a significantly smaller device that takes five measurements during one exposure—compared with three exposures using two different survey tools to get the same measurements with the old equipment. The shorter set-up time for the new machine also lets us get the first exposure in less than one minute. Total inspection time has been reduced by approximately 20 minutes.
Americans are exposed to more than seven times as much radiation from medical procedures than they were twenty years ago. While this increase in radiation exposure from medical procedures and diagnostics can improve health outcomes, it highlights the need for regular inspections to confirm that doses of radiation are as low as possible. Increased access to healthcare, along with projected population growth in the state, will lead to more diagnostic X-ray procedures, facilities, and X-ray units that will require inspection. Shortening the time to perform inspections will help DRC keep up with this increased need.
Under our continuous improvement process, our division is always looking for ways to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our inspection program. We are currently exploring the use of hand-held devices that inspectors can take into the field to fill out inspection reports. This would reduce time spent filling out duplicate forms and give our inspectors more time to answer questions medical professionals may have about their X-ray inspection equipment or precautions they may want to take for sensitive populations.
Want to learn more about medical X-ray imaging? The Food and Drug Administration website provides information about the benefits and risks of X-rays inspections along with questions you can ask your health care provider about the diagnostic and therapeutic use of X-rays. The Health Physics Society offers a Fact Sheet that explains the types of medical procedures that use radiation along with typical doses. Our X-ray staff is always happy to answer your questions about X-ray safety. Give us a call at 801-536-4250.
I am the Director of the Division of Radiation Control and have been a t DEQ for 29 years, most of that time in the Division of Solid and Hazardous Waste. I have a Bachelor of Science degree in meteorology—probably because I’ve always enjoyed a good summer thunderstorm. I enjoy various outdoor activities such as running, hiking, as well as yard work. I also enjoy an occasional fun run with other family members or spending time together while traveling.