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What's "stressing" x-ray techs?

By Lisa Tortorello, Jun 17 '11

Most jobs come with a degree of risk. Sometimes it may be risk of physical injury or in other cases possibly the risk of emotional stress or anxiety. Regardless of the field, we all have the potential to become victims of our livelihood. Many employers may try to help us by offering on-the-job training for stress management or the proper way to perform the physical aspects of our job responsibilities. Whatever the case, it is important that we adhere to these recommendations to avoid potential injury.

An x-ray technician is not immune to the possibility of work-related injury. In fact, a survey published in December 2010 by the Journal of the American College of Radiology reported that 70 percent of radiological technologists (R.T.s) suffer from repetitive stress symptoms resulting from work-related activities. The study was conducted at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and was designed to determine the prevalence of repetitive stress symptoms among x-ray technicians working in fully digital radiology departments. A total of 104 x-ray technicians responded to the survey who worked in diagnostic x-ray, computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, ultrasound, interventional radiology, mammography and nuclear medicine.

X-ray tech trouble: what is repetitive stress syndrome?

Repetitive stress syndrome, also called a repetitive strain injury, is the result of overuse of certain parts of the body due to consistently repeating the same activity. Typing on a keyboard or using power tools are examples of repeated actions that may lead to a strain injury. For an x-ray technician, repetitive stress syndrome often results from the use of imaging equipment, computer-related tasks or transferring patients.

In the December 2010 survey, 33 percent of x-ray technicians reported patient transfers as the cause of their symptoms and 23 percent said it was the use of ultrasound probes. Twenty percent placed the responsibility on maneuvering heavy imaging equipment and non-ergonomic chairs were the culprits for 19 percent of the respondents. "The study results highlight the fact that R.T.s work in demanding environments. It clearly outlines the need for radiologic technologists to contact their occupational health, human resources or risk management department to address occupational issues like repetitive stress symptoms," said American Society of Radiologic Technologists ' President Jim Temme, MPS, RT (R)(QM), FASRT.

Reducing and recognizing the risk

The researchers, who performed the study at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, concluded that to reduce the risk for x-ray tech injuries radiology departments and equipment manufacturers should work together to improve the ergonomics of patient transfer and imaging equipment.

Regardless of the cause, x-ray technicians who are suffering from repetitive stress injuries will most likely experience pain that may become chronic and/or difficult to cure. It is important that they are aware of the symptoms of a strain injury so that timely care can be received. Symptoms typically may include:

  • Discomfort in a localized are of the body that is consistently used
  • Fatigue or lack of strength in the muscles
  • Tingling or numbness in an over-used area

It is important to remember that an x-ray technician may be experiencing pain in an area that is not necessarily the source of the problem. Consultation with a physician is advised in any case when a repetitive strain injury is suspected.

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