Medical imaging represents the cutting-edge in healthcare and medical research sectors. It provides the means to catch conditions at the earliest possible stage, reducing the need for invasive investigative procedures which can improve recovery times and reduce hospital expenditure.

There is no denying the intrinsic value of medical imaging but there is a debate surrounding the risk-to-benefit ratio regarding the use of ionizing radiation in clinical and diagnostic settings. Although the minimal risk of exposure is far outweighed by the benefits of radiological imaging, with the number of high radiation dose tests on the rise worldwide, medical practitioners and manufacturers of advanced imaging equipment have repeatedly called for greater alignment of radiation management protocols.

Radiation management in medical imaging is a challenge that can only be tackled with an intersectional consensus. Frontline clinicians should be responsible for tailoring radiation doses on a holistic basis to ensure patient wellbeing, for example. Medical device manufacturers, meanwhile, must implement appropriate engineering solutions to mitigate the dangers of primary, secondary, and scattered radiation in high dose medical imaging.

In this blog post, H.C. Starck Solutions will explore some of the components and materials that are supporting the innovative drive in today’s medical imaging and radiotherapy applications.

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Which Medical Imaging Techniques Need Radiation Shielding?

Many different modalities exist within the fields of biological imaging and radiology today. Those that use radiation will require some form of shielding or radiation management system to ensure safe and optimal operation. X-ray machines, for example, have long used beam collimators to focus radiation into a manageable projection field that can be directed onto a specific area of interest. X-ray beam collimators historically used lead (Pb) shutters to manage both the direction of X-rays and the radiation dose.

Tungsten (W) and tungsten alloys have rapidly outstripped Pb in X-ray beam collimation due to their superior density of approximately > 17g/cm3. Density is a critical property in radiation management for medical imaging as the types of radiation used are highly penetrating (X-rays, gamma, etc.). Both gamma and X-ray radiation are short wavelength and high energy, which enables them to ionize atoms and principally poses a carcinogenic risk. Consequently, any medical imaging technology that employs ionizing radiation with energies of approximately 100 electron volts (eV) or greater will require some form of high-density shielding.

Learn more about the radiation shielding parts on offer from H.C. Starck Solutions

While standard X-ray scans do deal with radiation on these orders of magnitude – typically up to a maximum of 100 kiloelectronvolts (keV) – the average effective dose of medical imaging based on X-ray radiation rarely exceeds 1.5 millisieverts (mSv). This is half the effective dose that an average U.S. citizen receives from background radiation in a single year. It is also minuscule compared to high dose techniques such as computed tomography (CT) or nuclear imaging.

Radiation shielding parts and anti-scatter grids based on high-density technical metals have proven essential to the safe and precise implementation of a new generation of medical imaging technologies based on higher radiation dosages. Tungsten and tungsten heavy alloy (WHA) are chief among the materials usually integrated into CT scanners and nuclear imaging technologies, helping to mitigate the risk factors of using pioneering imaging technologies in clinical, diagnostic, or research settings. Some CT protocols and nuclear cardiological imaging are associated with radiation doses of more than 20 mSv – comparable to more than five years of accumulated background radiation. The introduction of H.C. Starck Solutions 3D printed anti-scatter grids could result in a reduction in radiation dose with no decrease in image clarity.

Medical Imaging Solutions from H.C. Starck Solutions

H.C. Starck Solutions offers proprietary collimators, anti-scatter grids, and radiation shielding parts for advanced medical imaging applications. We have extensive experience in the delivery of components intended for use in applications characterized by intense electromagnetic radiation on the order of X-ray and gamma radiation. Alongside a catalogue of solutions based on tungsten, we offer the following materials for radiation management applications:

  • Tantalum (Ta)
  • Titanium-zirconium-molybdenum (TZM) alloy
  • Niobium

If you would like more information about our materials or our expertise in the medical technology sector, simply contact a member of the H.C. Starck Solutions team today.

References:

  1. https://www.who.int/diagnostic_imaging/en/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3684954/
  3. https://www.health.harvard.edu/cancer/radiation-risk-from-medical-imaging
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2996147/