New Device Helps Reduce Radiation Exposure For Patients

November 26, 1997

Hershey, Pa. -- Researchers at Penn State's College of Medicine have invented a way to protect the eyes, thyroid gland and female breasts during computer tomography (CT) scans.

"Certain areas have always been shielded when they were not in the primary field of view. However, we have now developed a method where these areas can be in the primary x-ray field and still be protected and even with this new shielding, the diagnostic portion of the image is not affected," says Kenneth D. Hopper, M.D., professor of radiology and the inventor of the product.

"For each area (eyes, thyroid, breasts), we have formed a bismuth latex material into unique shapes. The garments are easy to use and can be put on and off, and there are no side effects," adds Hopper, who also is a radiologist with the Penn State Geisinger Health System.

Hopper's latest research, "In-plane x-ray protection for the breast during diagnostic thoracic CT: shielding by bismuth radioprotective garments," is published in the December issue of Radiology.

Computer tomography, or CT, is an important radiology test needed by thousands of patients each year. The CT scan is an X-ray that is taken 360 degrees around the patient. While the information can be essential in guiding their treatment, unfortunately a patient does receive significant doses of radiation from the x-rays. Several superficial parts of the body are more sensitive to this radiation than others, including the eyes, thyroid gland and in women, breasts.

By placing this thin bismuth garment over these areas, radiation exposure can be reduced to breasts by 57 percent or an average of 2.2 rads down to just 1. Radiation to the thyroid was reduced 60 percent, and radiation to the eyes was reduced 40 percent. In addition, the bismuth material was far more elastic and moldable to the body's surface than the traditional leaded material.

Hopper says that other publications have demonstrated that 1 rad of radiation to the breast of a women under 35 increases her lifetime breast cancer risk by about 13 percent.

"When you realize that radiation is cumulative throughout a lifetime, you see that by cutting the radiation during these procedures can be significant for individuals," adds Hopper.

Hopper says the reusable protective garment for the breast will probably cost less than $30. The shields for the eye and the thyroid are only about $5, and all are widely available. **lp**

Leilyn Perri
717-531-8604 (o)
M. Steven Bortner
717-531-8607 (o)
717-838-5910 (h)

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