Spine surgeons can sustain 10-12X greater radiation exposure compared to surgeons using fluoroscopy for non-spinal procedures as observed in fluoroscopically assisted pedicle screw insertion procedures.
Even wearing lead, spine surgeons will exceed their radiation exposure lifetime limit in 10 years of practice, per the National Council on Radiation Protection’s current recommendations of lifetime dose limits. About a third of the radiation the surgeon is exposed to gets through the thyroid shield.
Safe distances from fluoroscopy machines might be much farther than commonly believed. Radiation values return to baseline at 14 ft in front of the X-ray source and 8 ft behind it. Protective barriers with a 0.5-mm lead-equivalence reduced radiation exposure to baseline at 6 ft and were 20% effective at 2 ft from the emitter. Spine surgeons who wear lead gowns during fluoroscopy could still be exposed to <80% of the radiation produced. Alternatives to reduce the use of fluoroscopy for intraoperative imaging should be explored.