Risk of cataract in health care workers exposed to ionizing radiation: a systematic review

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Elena Della Vecchia
Alberto Modenese https://orcid.org/0000-0002-0850-5615
Tom Loney
Martina Muscatello
Marilia Silva Paulo
Giorgia Rossi
Fabriziomaria Gobba https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1267-1632


Health workers, Ionizing radiation, Cataract, Radiation, Radiology, Radiologist work-related injury, Occupational injury, Occupational exposure, Interventional radiology, Radiation protection, Radiation-induced cataract, Interventional fluoroscopy, Dosimetry, Radiation workers, Dosimeter, Radiation effects.


Background: The eye is certainly one of the main target organs for the occupational risks in health-workers engaged in Medical Imaging (MI) exposed to Ionizing Radiations (IR). New evidences highlight the possible induction of cataract at exposure levels much lower than expected in the past.

Objectives: To update the knowledge on cataract risk in healthcare personnel exposed to IR by reviewing the recent scientific literature. Methods: Scientific studies published in the last 15 years (2003-2018) on cataract risk in IR exposed health operators were collected through the MedLine database search using different keywords. Results: Fourteen papers were selected: in the majority (10 out of 14 studies) an increase of the risk of cataract was observed in IR exposed operators, mainly interventional cardiologists and radiologists. Discussion: Recent studies on the risk of cataract in health care workers exposed to IR support the hypothesis of a significant increased occupational cataract risk in MI operators exposed to IR, and especially in interventional cardiologists. Data also support a dose-relationship between IR exposure and the prevalence of posterior lens opacities. Conclusions The overall results highlight the need of effective procedures for an adequate protection, including an appropriate training, a strict respect of protective procedures, and a constant use of shields and eye PPE in health personnel engaged in activities with possible eye IR exposure. Periodical health surveillance programs, possibly including lens evaluation, are also important for an effective protection of cataract risk in these operators.

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