Radiology Techs Assisting With Fluoroscopy May Risk Cataracts

By Lorraine L. Janeczko

April 04, 2019

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Radiology technicians who assist with fluoroscopically guided interventional procedures (FGIP) are at higher risk of cataract, new research suggests.

"The findings . . . add to the accumulating evidence from observational studies that exposure to ionizing radiation is an occupational risk factor for cataract in both physicians and medical staff who perform or assist with FGIP," Dr. Raquel Velazquez-Kronen of the National Institutes of Health in Rockville, Maryland, and the State University of New York at Buffalo told Reuters Health by email.

She and her colleagues looked at data on more than 35,000 radiology technicians who reported being cataract-free at baseline, between 1994 and 1998. In questionnaires completed through 2014, the technicians reported details such as how often they assisted with various types of FGIP, their use of radiation-protection equipment, cataract development and cataract surgery.

Overall, 9,372 technicians reported physician-diagnosed cataract, and 4,278 reported undergoing cataract surgery, the researchers report in Occupational and Environmental Medicine, online March 19.

Technicians who ever assisted with FGIP were at significantly higher risk of cataract than those who never assisted with FGIP (relative risk, 1.18).

The risk increased significantly with the number of FGIPs and was higher when technicians worked within three feet of the patient versus farther away.

"This study is important to highlight the risks for other members of the healthcare team who have varying levels of radiation exposure during FGIP procedures, which are gaining popularity across different medical and surgical specialties due to patient benefits with the techniques," said Dr. Shameema Sikder, director of the Wilmer Eye Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, who was not involved in the research.

"Protective efforts, such as lead glasses, which seem like they would be helpful, were not found to be statistically significant in the study," she told Reuters Health by email. "However, the subset of subjects was very small (n=167), so the analysis may not be significantly powered to draw a meaningful conclusion."

Dr. Soroosh Behshad, an assistant professor of ophthalmology at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia, who also was not involved in the work, cautioned about jumping to conclusions.

"This study was retrospective with the results derived from a questionnaire versus prospective using actual exam findings for data points," he told Reuters Health by email.


Occup Environ Med 2019.