Protecting hospital staff and patients from unwanted ionising radiation
From x-rays to positron emission tomography and radiotherapy, hospitals are increasingly using ionising radiation to offer imaging and treatment solutions. However, chronic exposure of hospital personnel to ionising radiation needs to be minimised, typically using radiation shielding installed as part of, or within, walls windows and doors.
Hospital shield testing refers to any means of testing whether or not the required amount of shielding has been installed during construction of a hospital suite that makes use of ionising radiation.
Visual inspection is largely impractical as partial damage of walls would be required to achieve this and it could only be ascertained that shielding has been installed in those select areas sampled. Therefore, non-destructive radiographic testing is used to ensure that the correct amount of shielding has been installed and/or that there are no omissions or construction deficiencies present that might lead to unacceptable radiation hot-spots.
Radiographic sources used for the process are carefully selected to ensure that they have the appropriate emission rate and energy for testing the specified shielding requirement. In some cases, operation of medical equipment (e.g. a treatment LINAC) is required to establish that the installed shielding is acceptable.
Most countries have strict regulations regarding the amount of radiation dose people can legally be exposed to. For non-radiation workers, i.e. hospital personnel and members of the public, these limits are low. A hospital has a duty of care to its personnel, patients and visitors and part of demonstrating this duty of care is demonstrating to the relevant government health and safety board that its radiation shielding provisions are adequate. Shield integrity testing in itself may also be a legal requirement, for articles that have been erected and carry radiation protection implications.
If issues with radiation shielding are identified late, corrective construction measures an be time consuming, expensive and disruptive to hospital operations. Therefore, implementing non-destructive shield testing methods during construction and/or pre-commissioning can minimise the risk of such measures being required.
TÜV SÜD’s Radiation Physics Team can offer a complete radiation shielding inspection service for hospitals, industrial radiography facilities or indeed, any other facility where ionising radiation may present a hazard. This can include:
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