Extending the Life of Your Radiation Protection Aprons
Extending the Life of Your Radiation Protection Aprons
January 31, 2024
Properly caring for your radiation protection aprons is vital for maintaining the integrity of the garments, helping to extend the life of the product and keep staff safe from harmful radiation.
There are four main aspects to proper apron care: cleaning, storage and handling, annual garment checks, and appointing a designated radiation protection officer. In this question-and-answer session, AliMed sits down with Mary Grace Hensell, RN, MSN, CNOR, (MGH), and Buck Thompson, Radiation Protection Business Development Manager (BT) at AliMed, to discuss best practices in each area.
1. Cleaning Your Radiation Protection Aprons
Do guidelines exist for apron cleaning?
MGH: There are several regulations available, but The Joint Commission specifically asks the frontline staff when each apron is wiped down. Aprons need to be wiped down every time they are taken off between procedures and staff must perform mandatory equipment checks to ensure fluoroscopy units are working properly. That was put into place to ensure proper care, in addition to physician and staff education on radiation management and inspection of aprons.
How do you properly clean radiation protection aprons?
MGH: Conduct a deep cleaning—best practice is to clean quarterly. In between procedures, you need to wipe your apron down with a hydrogen peroxide wipe or another appropriate wipe, and then it needs to be completely dried. Aprons usually need about five minutes to dry.
BT: As far as cleaning is concerned, we recommend the use of certain types of mild cleaners, wipes, or sprays that are non-abrasive, non-alcoholic, and bleach-free, so they don’t degrade the nylon, polyurethane, or polyester fabric on the outside or the barrier material on the inside.
Suggested products: Scrubbles Apron Cleaner, CaviWipes™ Disinfecting Towelettes, PDI® Sani-Cloth® Wipes
Are there solutions to help manage cleaning schedules?
BT: Apron cleaning can be tracked for all departments through the Inspection module on the AliTrack Digital Tracking System. Simply select the Inspection Type "Cleaned" when adding an inspection record. An inspection record can be added for multiple garments simultaneously, or one at a time, which allows you to upload item specific details—including pictures—as needed.
What is AliTrack? AliTrack is our exclusive digital tracking system that allows you to easily and efficiently manage your facility’s radiation protection inventory and inspection history—from garment in to garment out—all in one simple, secure cloud-based application. Learn more or sign up now.
Is using individual aprons safer than shared aprons?
MGH: We’re moving toward providing individual aprons versus using a community apron. Because for example, if a surgeon is wearing a heavy apron and standing for several hours under operating room lights, that surgeon may be perspiring and then is also exposed to bodily fluids. Do you want to share that apron? Using individual aprons reduces cross-contamination between staff. Additionally, aprons must fit properly to provide effective protection—what fits one person may not fit another. Moving from shared aprons to individualized ones ensures each staff member is adequately protected from both radiation and cross-contamination.
2. Handling and Storing Your Radiation Protection Aprons
What’s the best storage solution?
MGH: Best practices include utilizing hangers and storage racks so that you don’t fold your aprons. Staff, many times, think they understand how to clean their equipment and how to manage their equipment. But what I actually see in the field is that staff are folding aprons over the top of racks, over the top of a chair, or even onto the floor. This can cause creases or even cracks in the protective material that weaken the integrity of the apron. Proper storage on hangers or racks is extremely important to maintain the effectiveness of your protection equipment.
Suggested products: AliMed® Heavy-Duty Apron Hangers, AliMed® Mobile Porta-Rak
3. Annual Checks of Your Radiation Protection Aprons
What should you check for during an apron inspection?
BT: Most or all facilities are required to inspect their aprons once or twice a year for defects. To accomplish this, aprons are put under fluoroscopy to detect any areas where the lead may be broken on the inside, even if it is not visible from the outside. The auditing bodies require that, when that inspection takes place, there is record keeping of that inspection. They don’t mind that you found a defective apron—they want to make sure you have a record of the inspection of that defective apron.
Can AliTrack assist me with inspections?
BT: Yes! AliTrack tracks the history of inspections and the outcome of those inspections. It also tells the hospital or facility where that apron belongs, what size it is, what color it is, who manufactured it, and the date of every inspection. There is also a pass/fail and a missing-apron status, so when a manager or administrator is looking at the AliTrack software on the dashboard, they can tell what has passed, what has failed, what department is not doing their inspections, and where they have some potential liability for uninspected garments, for which they can be written up by the auditing body.
To learn more about how can help you engage in proper radiation protection, maintain a cumulative record of inspection dates, and more, visit AliMed.com/alitrack.
4. Utilizing a Designated Radiation Protection Officer
Do I really need a radiation protection officer?
MGH: The Joint Commission is looking to have a designated radiation officer to provide oversight to all radiological services. Traditionally, this is someone in radiology who can make sure that every one of these items is adhered to, establishing a radiation threshold and following up on dosimeters. First, you need to establish what the overexposure is. Then, you need to show a quality improvement and demonstrate that you’re following up with the staff, physicians, or nurses.
Key Takeaways from our Conversation
- Cross-contamination can be avoided with proper cleaning and using individual aprons rather than shared ones, ensuring each staff member has a clean, properly fitting apron for safe and effective protection.
- Proper storage using racks or hangers is important for preventing creases, cracks, or other damage that can weaken the integrity of the apparel.
- When it comes to inspecting aprons, AliTrack keeps records of when each apron was last inspected and its pass/fail/missing status, helping facility’s avoid potential liability or negative evaluations.