The ACVR supports sustained and conscientious attention to safe practices regarding veterinary radiologic imaging and therapy as they relate to personnel, patient, and equipment. Exposure to radiation should always be As Low As Reasonably Achievable (ALARA) while maximizing the quality of the procedure.
The use of radiation to diagnose and treat animal diseases has significantly advanced the field of veterinary medicine, resulting in improved patient care. The equipment and techniques used to perform imaging and therapy procedures, whether they generate ionizing radiation (such as radiography, fluoroscopy, computed tomography, therapeutic radiation generators, and radioisotopes) or nonionizing radiation (such as ultrasonography and magnetic resonance imaging) are associated with potential risks to patients and personnel. Individuals with significantly less formal training than ACVR Diplomates in the safety, physics, and biology of ionizing radiation are routinely involved with these procedures. It is essential that these individuals be adequately trained in the appropriate function and use of the equipment and in the techniques of the procedure to minimize unnecessary radiation exposure to themselves, staff, patients, and the public.
Facilities employing ionizing radiation* as a diagnostic and therapeutic tool must have established policies and procedures in place and be familiar with current standards and techniques. This includes developing examination protocols for radiography, fluoroscopy, computed tomography, and radioisotope procedures that take into account patient body parameters (size, weight, composition) and maximize the distance and shielding of workers and the public. Equipment quality control must be included in these protocols.
Veterinary medical personnel who are directly involved with ionizing radiation procedures should wear dosimetry badges to monitor radiation exposure. Badge measurements should be evaluated regularly. If individual doses are reported to be high, measures should be taken to reduce further exposure to that individual (e.g., minimizing exposure time, maximizing distance, wearing appropriate shielding). A human body part within a primary x-ray beam is a failure in safety protocol and should be prevented through proper training and chemical restraint of the patient when necessary.
*Ionizing radiation refers to any electromagnetic or particulate radiation capable of producing ion pairs by interaction with matter. Common examples used in medicine include x-rays, electrons, gamma rays, beta particles, and other products of radioactive decay.
- U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission – Occupational dose limits for adults.
- National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP) – NCRP Report No. 148, “Radiation Protection in Veterinary Medicine” (ISBN 0-929600-85-1) was published in 2004. This report can be purchased ($50 hardcopy; $40 PDF) from the NCRP web site.
- Health Canada – Environmental and Workplace Health – Radiation Protection In Veterinary Medicine – Recommended Safety Procedures For Installation And Use Of Veterinary X-ray Equipment – Safety Code28.
- Health Canada – Environmental and Workplace Health – X-rays.
- Hands-Free X-Rays– Created to promote radiation safety awareness in the veterinary workplace
7 Minute Radiation Training Video
This video describes how to use radiation shielding if you must manually restrain an animal during a radiography examination. Federal guidelines in the United States and Canada recommend that individuals should avoid regular manual restraint of animals for radiographs, but if you must do so, it’s important to follow these guidelines that are designed to protect your health.
The video is the focus of a manuscript by the University of Saskatchewan titled “A 7-minute video training intervention improves worker short-term radiation safety behavior during small animal diagnostic radiography”, published in Veterinary Radiology & Ultrasound.
The ACVR partners with the Hands-Free X-Ray initiative, created to promote radiation safety awareness in the veterinary workplace.
Lower the Dose
The ACVR partners with IDEXX and the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) in Lower the Dose, a new initiative to help raise awareness of radiation safety best practices. There is a need for more radiation safety education to make people aware of the As Low as Reasonably Achievable (ALARA) principle to help create a safer work space. Visit the new Lower the Dose website for timely and relevant radiation resources, news, safety information, and state guidelines. This initiative complements the ACVR’s Position Statement on Radiation Safety.