Why Blocking Radiation at the Source is the Smart Solution

Following my interventional cardiology fellowship and subsequent research fellowship in Boston, I returned to the Bayou country of Louisiana to pursue my lifelong dream of improving cardiovascular care in the region where I was born and where my extended family still lived. This area had one of the highest mortality rates from cardiovascular disease in the United States and had an exceedingly high rate of amputations secondary to peripheral vascular disorders. I wrote a mission statement about what I hoped to achieve.

The practice has been successful, growing from one cardiologist ultimately to 82. My group manages multiple hospital catheterization labs, an ASC, and an OBL. We have dramatically reduced mortality rates and amputations using preventive programs, improved access to care, and advanced medical and interventional care.

After years of wearing heavy protective gear during long procedures, one day, I noticed that my left arm was numb and painful. As it turned out, I had severe cervical disc disease with profound spinal stenosis warranting urgent multi-level cervical fusion surgery. I was told this might end my ability to perform cath lab procedures because of the weight of protective radiation-blocking aprons. Luckily, a neurosurgeon fused some vertebrae, and I’ve been able to continue performing interventions. This experience truly changed the way I thought about the need to mitigate scatter radiation exposure balanced with the necessity of wearing heavy lead gear. This has been the root cause of severe orthopedic injuries for many of us in this field. In my mind, there had to be a better way.

Years later, I came across a demonstration of the Radiaction system at a medical conference. I watched in amazement as the retracted shielding panels extended at the push of a button to form a protective barrier around the X-ray emitter, the source of scatter radiation. This elegantly simple concept made immediate sense and intrigued me. I spoke to the exhibitors who explained that, at that time, this wasn’t yet available in the United States.

Physicians know that fixing a problem at its source is the shortest route to an efficient, healthy solution, and seeing this concept built into the Radiaction system was incredibly encouraging. I believe that this technology might allow for much lighter loads of wearable protective gear without sacrificing safety. Any cath lab worker will confirm that the difference in comfort and mobility with 25 pounds of lead versus 5 pounds is enormous.

By blocking radiation at the source, the Radiaction system has the potential to revolutionize radiation protection. We’ll need to educate the whole healthcare enterprise about this paradigm shift and how prioritizing scatter radiation protection might help avoid a tsunami of liability lawsuits and workman’s compensation claims from those injured on the job by radiation or heavy lead clothing.

As someone who has lost colleagues and friends to leukemia, melanoma, and brain tumors after serving long years in the cath lab, these changes can’t come soon enough: The Radiaction system could prolong the careers of interventionists, stamp out the pregnancy fears that keep many women from entering the field, and literally lift the heavy, painful burden of wearable lead shielding from our shoulders, so we can focus on treating our patients in safety and comfort.

In its simplicity and effectiveness, Radiaction’s technology is a brilliant solution to an old problem. It delivers easy-to-use, excellent protection for everyone in the room without inconvenience or workflow disruptions. It’s also grounded in a fundamental medical concept: blocking radiation at the source means addressing the problem at its source. Every good physician shares this guiding philosophy, and it’s the reason why the Radiaction system is such an effective, elegant way to support and protect our vital caregivers in the cath lab.

Craig Walker, MD, is a board-certified interventional cardiologist, founder of the Cardiovascular Institute of the South, and Clinical Professor of Medicine at LSU and Tulane Medical Schools. He is the Clinical Editor of Vascular Disease Management. He is on the editorial board of the Journal of Endovascular Therapy, Endovascular Today, Global Vascular Digest, and many other vascular-based journals. Additionally, Dr. Walker founded New Cardiovascular Horizons (NCVH), which provides multidisciplinary-accredited conferences to advance the field of cardiovascular care. Dr. Walker serves as chairman for the annual conference and the 20+ regional meetings throughout the year. NCVH has become one of the largest and most prestigious peripheral vascular conferences in the world.

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