Radiation protection physics
Application of the diagnostic radiological index of protection to protective garments
Previously, the diagnostic radiological index of protection (DRIP) was proposed as a metric for quantifying the protective value of radioprotective garments. The DRIP is a weighted sum of the percent transmissions of different radiation beams through a garment. Ideally, the beams would represent the anticipated stray radiation encountered during clinical use. However, it is impractical to expect a medical physicist to possess the equipment necessary to accurately measure transmission of scattered radiation. Therefore, as a proof of concept, the authors tested a method that applied the DRIP to clinical practice.
Primary beam qualities used in interventional cardiology and radiology were observed and catalogued. Based on the observed range of beam qualities, five representative clinical primary beam qualities, specified by kV and added filtration, were selected for this evaluation. Monte Carlo simulations were performed using these primary beams as source definitions to generate scattered spectra from the clinical primary beams. Using numerical optimization, ideal scatter mimicking primary beams, specified by kV and added aluminum filtration, were matched to the scattered spectra according to half- and quarter-value layers and spectral shape. To within reasonable approximation, these theoretical scatter-mimicking primary beams were reproduced experimentally in laboratory x ray beams and used to measure transmission through pure lead and protective garments. For this proof of concept, the DRIP for pure lead and the garments was calculated by assigning equal weighting to percent transmission measurements for each of the five beams. Finally, the areal density of lead and garments was measured for consideration alongside the DRIP to assess the protective value of each material for a given weight.
The authors identified ideal scatter mimicking primary beams that matched scattered spectra to within 0.01 mm for half- and quarter-value layers in copper and within 5% for the shape function. The corresponding experimental scatter-mimicking primary beams matched the Monte Carlo generated scattered spectra with maximum deviations of 6.8% and 6.6% for half- and quarter-value layers. The measured DRIP for 0.50 mm lead sheet was 2.0, indicating that it transmitted, on average, 2% of incident radiation. The measured DRIP for a lead garment and one lead-alternative garment closely matched that for pure lead of 0.50 mm thickness. The DRIP for other garments was substantially higher than 0.50 mm lead (3.9–5.4), indicating they transmitted about twice as much radiation. When the DRIP was plotted versus areal density, it was clear that, of the garments tested, none were better than lead on a weight-by-weight basis.
A method for measuring the DRIP for protective garments using scatter-mimicking primary beams was developed. There was little discernable advantage in protective value per unit weight for lead-alternative versus lead-only garments. Careful consideration must be given to the balance of protection and weight when choosing a lead-alternative protective garment with a lower specified “lead equivalence,” e.g., 0.35 mm. The DRIP has the potential to resolve this dilemma. Reporting the DRIP relative to areal density is an ideal metric for objective comparisons of protective garment performance, considering both protective value in terms of transmission of radiation and garment weight.