X-ray Shielding FAQ

More than 50 years of research has shown that levels of radiation used in modern X-ray machines are so low that the risk of harm is very small or even zero. That’s why we are no longer using shields, sometimes called lead aprons, during X-ray exams. Here are answers to some of our most frequently asked questions.

X-ray Shielding FAQ

I thought shields protected a person from radiation. Why are you not using them anymore?

There are several reasons we are no longer using shields during X-ray exams:

  • The shield can hide body parts the doctor needs to see. When this happens, we may have to take another X-ray, which can increase your child’s radiation exposure. 
  • Modern X-ray machines like the ones used at Nationwide Children’s have built-in sensors that automatically determine how much radiation is needed to take a good picture. A shield could get in the way of the sensor and cause the machine to deliver more radiation than needed. 
  • We know more about how radiation affects the body than we used to. Research has shown that reproductive organs like the testicles and ovaries are not affected by modern X-ray systems, so shields have no added benefit.

Why were shields used in the first place if they have no benefit to the patient and carry a risk for using more radiation?

Shields were first recommended by the FDA in 1976. At the time, they were thought to impact a person’s ability to have children. Now, after more than 50 years of research, we know this is not true. Also, modern X-ray machines use approximately 96% less radiation than the machines used when the recommendation was first made.

Can radiation impact my child’s ability to one day have children?

No. Research has shown that the radiation levels used in today’s X-ray machines does not cause damage to your child’s eggs or sperm. Also, the amount of radiation required to cause infertility is more than 100 times the dose from a single X-ray exam.

If my child receives X-ray exams regularly, are they at greater risk of harm from radiation?

There is no evidence to suggest that multiple exams over a person’s life adds up to increased risk.

Why do I have to wear a shield but my child doesn’t?

Our goal is to keep the levels of radiation exposure to the patient, patient family and our staff as low as possible. When we take images of your child, we don’t want the shield to get in the way of this. When we take the X-ray, however, a small amount of radiation may bounce off your child and hit you. We ask you to wear a shield to protect you from this needless radiation exposure.

Can you still shield my child?

Yes. If you prefer that we shield your child during an X-ray exam, we can so long as it doesn’t impact our ability to take images of the body part(s) the doctor needs to see. If the shield affects the image, this can result in higher levels of radiation exposure to your child.

Can you provide a shield for my child’s body parts that are not part of the image?

The radiation exposure to your child outside of the area we’re imaging is extremely small. This means there is no real benefit to shielding the remainder of your child’s body. Additionally, the shield covering your child’s other body parts could slip into the area we’re imaging. This could mean we’d have to take another X-ray, which could increase your child’s radiation exposure.

What if my child is pregnant? Can you shield her stomach?

We are especially careful when imaging pregnant patients and have protocols that ensure there is very low radiation exposure to the baby. However, if we place a shield over your child’s stomach and it impacts the image, we may need to repeat the X-ray, which can increase the overall radiation to your child and her baby. Since shielding shows no benefit to the baby, it is better not to shield your child’s stomach.

What exams will  be done with shields?

No patient exams will be routinely done with a shield.

How does the X-ray equipment at Nationwide Children’s ensure the lowest level of radiation exposure to my child?

Our Imaging Department uses only the latest X-ray technology. This technology means the least amount of radiation possible is used to produce high quality X-ray exams for children of all sizes. We also train our staff on low radiation imaging practices. For more information, click here.

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