Interventional Radiology, Radiologists

MSK Problems Weigh Down Interventional Radiologists

Musculoskeletal problems are common among interventional radiologists, caused by many hours wearing heavy radiation protection gear. That’s according to a new study in European Journal of Radiology which found that almost half of interventionalists suffered from multiple orthopedic problems, issues that forced a significant portion to either reduce or stop their interventional practice. 

Interventional radiology has been responsible for major improvements in patient care through image-guided procedures that are noninvasive and can eliminate the need for open surgery, reducing patient recovery times to hours rather than days.

  • But these advances can come at the cost of higher radiation doses to the personnel who perform and assist with interventional radiology procedures, which has led to issues such as higher breast cancer rates among women who work with image-guided procedures and even DNA damage in cases of long-term exposure.

Radiation protection gear is worn by interventionalists to mitigate that radiation risk, but this gear is heavy and can carry risks of its own, which were investigated by researchers from the University Hospital Marburg in Germany. They conducted a 17-question survey of orthopedic problems among interventional radiologists, receiving 221 responses indicating that …

  • Some 48% of responders experienced more than five orthopedic problems during their interventional career
  • Problems of the lumbar spine were reported by 82% of respondents, followed by cervical spine (33%), shoulder (29%), and knee (25%)
  • Orthopedic problems caused 16% of respondents to reduce their interventional activities, and 2.7% to stop their practice altogether
  • Just 16% of respondents said they had never experienced an orthopedic problem in their career

The new findings track with previous research highlighting the toll that radiation protection gear takes on interventional personnel. The researchers said that one positive finding of their study was that all interventional radiologists reported wearing radiation protection, although fewer respondents reported using radiation glasses (49%) or visors (11%) despite radiation’s known risk of cataracts.

The Takeaway

This study indicates that interventional radiologists are caught between a rock (radiation dose) and a hard place (orthopedic problems). Relief could come from companies that are developing radiation protection solutions such as free-hanging radiation protection gear; for interventional personnel, these options can’t come soon enough.

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