ORSIF Film on Risks of Occupational Radiation Exposure Features Dr. Ted Diethrich’s Story


May 7, 2015—The Organization for Occupational Safety in Interventional Fluoroscopy (ORSIF) announced the release of a new short film that seeks to focus widespread attention on the impact that chronic, low-level exposure to ionizing radiation has on physicians who practice interventional medicine in fluoroscopy labs. ORSIF introduced the film at the Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions (SCAI) 2015 scientific sessions being held May 6–9 in San Diego, California. 

In addition to the film at SCAI 2015, ORSIF is distributing a white paper, “Ionizing Radiation in Interventional Fluoroscopy: Severity of Adverse Effects of a Growing Health Problem.” 

The film can be viewed below, and the white paper can be downloaded on the homepage of ORSIF’s website, http://orsif.org.

The documentary features Edward Diethrich, MD, who has experienced several health issues believed to be directly linked to radiation exposure, including cataracts in both eyes and dense, calcific plaque in his carotid artery. The greatest impact on his career as an endovascular surgeon was the diagnosis of an oligodendroglioma, a brain tumor. Dr. Diethrich is the founder and Medical Director of the Arizona Heart Foundation in Scottsdale, Arizona. 

According to ORSIF, interventional procedures performed in hospital catheterization labs are a leading source of radiation exposure for medical personnel and have been linked to the development of cataracts, cancer, and brain and thyroid diseases.

Speaking in the documentary about his endovascular practice, Dr. Diethrich commented, “When we started doing these procedures, nobody questioned what we did. The last thing I was thinking about was how much radiation am I exposed to. Being a doctor, my whole motive was to help the patient get well. I didn’t think about the hazardous conditions.” 

Dr. Diethrich has undergone treatment for his tumor. In the film, he describes himself as “a living example of excessive radiation and what it can do to tissue.” He added, “I think I felt this radiation cannot hurt me. I felt indestructible. Obviously, I didn’t know what I was talking about.”

Both coronary and peripheral interventional procedures performed in close proximity to radiation sources pose an ongoing health risk for fluoroscopy lab employees, stated ORSIF. In addition, serious orthopedic and musculoskeletal health issues are common among physicians and staff as a result of the heavy, traditional lead-lined protective gear worn in fluoroscopy labs.

In the announcement, ORSIF’s Director of Advocacy Programs, Michael Seymour commented, “Dr. Diethrich communicates a very powerful message in this video, which is that hospital administrators, staff, and regulators need to do a better job of recognizing this hidden hazard and understanding the serious health risks linked to occupational radiation exposure. A collaborative effort is needed as we work together toward creating safer work environments for those professionals whose primary focus is saving the lives of others.” 

In a summary of the white paper, ORSIF stated that approximately 40% of nonradiotherapy medical radiation stems from ionizing radiation used to diagnose and treat cardiovascular conditions. The paper focuses on data collected on the adverse health impacts recorded for interventional cardiology teams.

The white paper examines existing scientific evidence on the rising incidences of cancer, precursors to cataracts, and other serious adverse health effects among medical professionals who perform interventional procedures; the musculoskeletal hazards that stem from the use of traditional personal protective equipment used by physicians performing interventional procedures; dramatic contrasts between radiation exposure thresholds in the United States and more stringent thresholds recommended by international radiation protection agencies; and potential solutions and changes that may increase occupational safety in interventional fluoroscopy.

The document will be updated regularly to incorporate new clinical evidence, reports or initiatives from federal agencies, changes to regulatory standards, and emerging engineering and technological solutions, advised ORSIF.


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