May 27, 2016 — Radiation exposure to cath lab staff and physicians has seen growing concern in recent years, as the prevalence of cancers and glaucoma has been observed to be high among interventional cardiologists. This has spurred research projects to help quantify the health risks of working in a cath lab and being exposed to ionizing radiation from the X-ray angiography systems.
The Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions (SCAI) recently began one such project at its 2016 annual meeting in May, where it started collecting real data on the impact of radiation-induced cataracts amongst the cardiovascular cath lab team. Through the IC-CATARACT initiative led by Manos Brilakis, M.D., Ph.D., FSCAI, and his team of researchers from VA North Texas Healthcare System and UT Southwestern Medical Center, is offering free eye exams for SCAI members. These exams look at intra-ocular pressure check and screening for radiation related posterior sub-capsular cataracts.
The iC-CATARACT initiative hosted exams as part of the SCAI 2016 meeting on the expo floor, where 117 participants were screened. They underwent intra-ocular pressure check and dilated slit-lamp eye examinations and screening for radiation related posterior sub-capsular cataracts. These participants also completed a questionnaire regarding occupational radiation exposure and radiation protection measures used. Analyses of study data and preparation of publication of study results are underway, Brilakis said.
“The reception from SCAI participants of the iC-CATARACT initiative was positively overwhelming, as the number of participants exceeded initial projections by well over 30 percent, necessitating extended examination hours,” Brilakis explained.
“The study is looking at cataracts in old guys like me,” said Jeffrey Marshall, M.D., FACC, MSCAI, medical director of the cardiac catheterization laboratory, The Heart Center of Northeast Georgia Medical Center, Gainesville. The former SCAI president was among those who had his eyes tested at the annual meeting. “Radiation is a bad thing for us and everyone understands you can get cataracts from radiation exposure, so what they are doing is looking at a number of interventional cardiologists, dilating their eyes, doing a slit-lamp exam and seeing whether or not we have cataracts.”
He stressed the importance of this research because any impact on the cardiologist’s eyes can impact their ability to do their jobs. “In interventional cardiology, we make high-quality movies so we can make a diagnosis, but without your eyes, you can’t make that diagnosis. So you have got to take care of your eyes, back and neck so you can continue to take care of patients with myocardial infarctions at 3 o’clock in the morning,” Marshall said.
The full extent of these radiation risks is not yet known and SCAI hopes this effort will shed more light on this work place safety issue that directly affects the well-being and health of its members. The society said this effort and others will be the focus of workplace issues in the coming year.
Support of this screening initiative are being provided by Dallas VA Research Corp.