Shielding the male gonads using a type of lead capsule previously only used in X-ray imaging also reduces indirect radiation to the testes during MDCT of the abdomen and pelvis, according to a new study by researchers from the University of Technology of Aachen in Germany.
Protecting the testes from radiation is important because the testes are sensitive to radiation damage, which could result in cancer, infertility, or sperm mutation.
For the study, the researchers analyzed 66 men who underwent routine MDCT of the abdomen and pelvis, 34 of whom used the gonad capsule and 32 of whom went without. The researchers found that the radiation dose to the testicles of the 34 who used the gonad capsule during MDCT was reduced by 87% compared to the other group. The capsule, which is commercially available and comes in different sizes depending on patient anatomy, is a hinged device that encloses the gonads and is attached by the patient himself.
According to the study authors, lead shielding is currently not an established dose-reduction method for CT examinations like it is for conventional X-ray studies. “CT has become widely employed, and the continuous improvement of image quality has meant a dramatic increase in radiation dose to the patient,” said Christian Hohl, MD, lead author of the study.
“There are several attempts to cope with the increasing dose during MDCT, but most of them are complex and expensive. The aim of this study was to prove that the ‘old-fashioned’ gonad shield is an inexpensive and easy-to-use method to protect the male gonads during MDCT,” said Dr. Hohl. “In the beginning we were greeted with smiles for using this ‘oldie’ in a state-of-the-art MDCT scanner,” he added.
The study appears in the January 2005 issue of the American Journal of Roentgenology.