Radiation exposure in emergency physicians working in an urban ED: a prospective cohort study

Published:March 10, 2010DOI:



      The National Council on Radiation Protection (NCRP) limits health care–associated occupational exposures to radiation to 5000 mrem/y. Previous studies suggested that emergency physicians were not exposed over this limit. Their relevance to contemporary practice is unknown. We hypothesized that emergency physicians are currently exposed to radiation levels above the NCRP limits.


      This prospective cohort study was conducted at an urban, academic, level I trauma center emergency department (ED). Thermoluminescent dosimeter radiation badges were placed on the torso and ring finger of all physicians staffing the ED during May 2008. Thermoluminescent dosimeter badges were affixed to 8 portable phones that are carried by physicians in the ED 24 hours a day. At the end of the study period, exposure dose for each subject was estimated.


      Seventy-five physicians enrolled in the study; 41 residents worked a median of 94 hours and 34 attendings worked a median of 54 hours. Compliance for physician badge wearing was 99%, ring wearing was 98%, and phone wearing was 100%. Two subjects had detectable levels of radiation on their torso thermoluminescent dosimeters of 4 and 1 mrem, respectively. One phone badge had a detectable level of 1 mrem. The annual extrapolated exposure for the subject with the highest radiation level would have been 50 mrem, below the 5000 mrem exposure limit for health care workers.


      Emergency physicians working in an urban, academic, level I trauma center ED do not appear to be at risk of exceeding the NCRP dose limits for ionizing radiation exposure to their torso or extremities.
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