Protection of man and the environment

Medical radiation dose optimisation

X-rays and radioisotopes are an integral part of today’s healthcare. Radiology creates visual images of organs, nuclear medicine diagnoses and treats cancer with radioisotopes and radiotherapy uses radiation as a cancer therapy. Moreover, new nuclear medical applications are continually being introduced.

As with all forms of radioactivity, these applications are not without risk for both patients and medical staff. SCK•CEN invests heavily in pioneering research aimed at keeping these radiation doses to an absolute minimum whilst retaining the benefits of radioactivity.

Protection of premature babies

Almost all premature babies have underdeveloped lungs. During the initial months these babies frequently have to undergo lung x-rays. Babies, and premature babies in particular, are highly sensitive to radiation, hence the need to keep the dose as low as possible. However, the quality of a radiological image is directly dependent upon the amount of radiation. We have conducted extensive research in recent years into the delicate balance between a minimal radiation dose and sufficiently high image quality.

To this end we developed new models to define the ideal dose for each organ. During this process we confirmed the need for an extra filter, which lowers the radiation dose in the lungs by a quarter without excessive loss of image quality. We are conducting a national study to chart the general radiation impact on premature babies in this country.


Skin damage caused by interventional radiology

Medical treatments or examinations increasingly involve interventional radiology, whereby a small incision is made in the patient's skin. Various needles, guide wires and catheters are inserted through the incision whilst radiological techniques are used for visual control. This type of intervention is frequently employed to insert pacemakers and stents, visualise arteries, etc.

If the intervention takes a long time the increasing radioactivity level can cause skin damage. Together with several university hospitals, we have developed a measurement method to define and monitor the threshold levels for skin damage with interventional radiology. We have also designed protection methods for medical staff.