A thyroid shield is a device that can be worn by health care workers or patients for the prophylactic, or preventative, treatment of radiation exposure. The operators of X-ray machinery may, in addition, wear leaded glasses to minimize the dose received during a procedure.
X-ray technologists, physicians, nurses, dentists, and any other health care workers who are exposed to large amounts of radiation while at work may utilize a shield to provide them with protection when they are on the job. In addition, patients undergoing X-ray procedures may benefit from its use. Technologists and health care workers who use certain kinds of radiation are at more or less risk, depending on the type. For instance, alpha particle is one of the least penetrating types, with beta particles being significantly more penetrating.
According to the American Thyroid Association, this gland is more sensitive to radiation that any other part of the body. There are a number of health risks related to the exposure of radiation to the thyroid. Hypothyroidism, an under-active thyroid, may develop several months or even many years after receiving radiation treatments. Cancer of the thyroid has been found 5 to 20 years after exposure, and nodules, which are benign growths, have been discovered in some patients and healthcare workers 8 to 10 years after initial exposure.
The amount, the time in which a person is exposed, and the distance in which it is delivered are all factors which contribute to the risk of thyroid-related complications.
Common procedures in which the use of protection could be advantageous to the worker include medical fluoroscopy studies and heart catheterization labs. Radiation is also sometimes used for the treatment of focal cancerous and non-cancerous growths. These treatments are also commonly used for benign or malignant growths, resulting in direct exposure to ionizing particles.
Physical examinations and blood tests can be used to easily detect some of the long-term effects on the thyroid that can be caused by exposure, but preventive treatment can help to minimize the risks of developing these illnesses in the first place.
One procedure that recommends that a shield not be used in a patient is the mammogram, as results of the test may be inaccurate.
Protective shields such as leaded glasses are imperative to the health of those exposed to large amounts of radiation in the health-related field. Those who have small doses of exposure bear little risk and should not be concerned.