The standard frontal radiation protection Leather Barbecue Apron has been around for decades and is found in nearly every medical imaging department on the planet. However, what if your staff needs to wear their apron for extended periods of time? Or need to remove their apron when in a sterile environment? Comfort, weight, level of protection needed, types of applications and personality are all factors that should be considered. We’ll look at each of these factors so you can make an informed decision
Comfort has to do with the style of apron and the lead type chosen. Aprons have been designed with comfort in mind so you can now find aprons that are built as a Vest/Skirt, Flexback type that gives the tech back support, full wrap aprons that give ultimate protection, maternity styles and full back support type aprons for those who need it. For instance, Radiologic Technologists who primarily work in the emergency room setting will do well with standard frontal aprons with regular.5mm pB eq lead. Frontal aprons are generally easy on and easy off for quickly getting to your exam and removing the apron quickly when finished. A cath lab nurse or tech needs to wear their apron for an extended period of time if not the entire day. For these applications a vest/skirt using a non-lead core would be the right choice. For the doctor or nurse in surgery who need to remove their lead apron during surgery, a surgical drop-off or surgical drop-away type apron is what would be needed.
The lead type chosen for the apron has a lot to do with comfort and level of protection. The standard level of protection is.5mm pb eq. Regular lead of this equivalency provides the best radiation protection, is the least expensive and the most durable. However, it is also the heaviest which will have a direct impact on comfort. All manufacturers also have a hybrid lead option. This lead is primarily lead with non-lead attenuating material embedded and/or mixed in with the core lead. Non-lead attenuating material is lighter weight. The trade off is that it is also more expensive to manufacture and the attenuation drops off as the kVp (strength of the x-ray) goes up. The drop off is generally around 4% to 6% but it depends on what the ratio of non-lead to lead is in the core material. On the plus side, the weight reduction can be from 15% to 23% also depending on the ratio of non-lead to lead. A full lead free apron will be the lightest apron you can get. However, attenuation as a whole will be reduced significantly and are the most expensive to produce. This apron core material is excellent for cath labs where the staff must wear their aprons for an extended period of time and the strength of x-ray is below 100 kVp. With proper care, these aprons will last for many years and be very comfortable when used in the correct application.
The last factor in choosing the correct apron is personality. This has more to do with fabric choice than any other factor. Manufacturers have done a wonderful job of updating and upgrading their fabric choices so each individual can choose something that matches their personality. Everything from standard royal blue nylon to hot pink leopard to color changing hologram prints are available. Radiation protection aprons have come a long way the past 15 years. With good feedback and imaginative manufacturers, they will continue to produce high quality and versatile x-ray aprons for you to choose from.