Avoid Radiation Exposure

In my opinion, the cover photo on the May 2003 issue of The Horse captures a scene that occurs far too often in the equine ambulatory setting. Clients and horse handlers often assist in obtaining radiographs of their horses. Sometimes these people are directed to stand in or around the direct beam of the X ray machine, and all too often without any radiation protection whatsoever. Like your cover photo shows, two or more persons are without proper protection--including aprons and/or gloves--while they are within the danger zone of the machine's output. Worse yet, two of these individuals are seen holding the limb and the X ray plate bare-handed!

My comments are directed to all individuals who assist the radiography machine operator. Lead gowns and gloves, as well as plate holders with extended arms, combined with your knowledge and avoidance of radiation exposure, are your best friends. In short, do not assist anyone around an X ray machine unless you are properly protected. In addition, do not hold a limb or plate without leaded gloves. Even with this protection, avoid placing your extremities in direct line with the X ray beam. You should not be assisting if you are less than 18 years of age. If you are pregnant, do not help in any way.

If the person operating the machine so chooses to place themselves in radiation danger, that is their prerogative. However, no owner or handler should partake in the same indiscretion, nor should any veterinarian or technician expect or ask them to.

Even though the portable machines of today are highly governed and very safe, X ray safety is still paramount. Please remember, "What you can't see can hurt you."

Larry H. Kelly, DVM
Lomita, Calif.

From the Attending Veterinarian

It has come to my attention that some people have expressed concern at the safety of the radiographic procedure shown on the cover of the May issue, in which I was taking a radiograph. When I learned in early spring that my picture would be on the cover, I thought back and wondered, "When did they take my picture?" My next thought was to remember that one additional radiograph was taken where I wasn't wearing a lead apron, and I hoped that wasn't the time that they took my picture. Wouldn't you know that when I received my May issue, there I was violating the basic rules of radiation safety. In my own hospital everyone wears appropriate lead protection, hands are kept out of the X ray beam, and minors are not allowed in the room. Please be assured that the hands in the photo got out of the way prior to clicking the shot. One of the advantages of the radiographic positioning device used in that photo is that the cassette can be put in place and rests securely without the need for human hands at the time of exposure.

I would like to express my strongest support for radiation safety and apologize to my veterinary colleagues for not representing our profession adequately. We all have lapses in protocol and in following rules, and I'm certainly no exception. The excitement of being actively involved in an international podiatry meeting was certainly a distraction, but no excuse. Please let my picture serve as a reminder to all to remember radiation safety every day.

Beyond the concerns over radiation safety, please don't let the picture be a distraction from the point of the cover story about the Bluegrass Laminitis symposium (article #4353 at www. TheHorse.com). This is an excellent meeting hosted every year by Dr. Ric Redden that brings together talented, concerned and caring individuals from the veterinary and farriery professions to learn more about the science of equine podiatry. I have learned more in the meetings I have attended than I could ever have imagined knowing through my 20-plus years of practice. My husband (also a veterinarian) and I have been fortunate to attend this meeting with not just one, but with three of the farriers that we work with regularly in our area. Veterinarians and farriers with an interest in lameness should all put this meeting on their "A" list of meetings to attend. The knowledge gained and the thought stimulated is well worth the time spent.

Thanks for the opportunity to express my contrition and my support for safety in the workplace.

Julie A. Grohs, DVM
Alaska Equine and Small Animal Hospital

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