Original Research

Ophthalmic manifestations of ionising radiation among interventionalists

Lumko Ngetu, Wayne Marais, André Rose, William I.D. Rae
African Vision and Eye Health | Vol 78, No 1 | a480 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/aveh.v78i1.480 | © 2019 Lumko Ngetu, Wayne Marais, André Rose, William I. D. Rae | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 05 October 2018 | Published: 07 November 2019

About the author(s)

Lumko Ngetu, Department of Ophthalmology, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Wayne Marais, Department of Ophthalmology, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa
André Rose, Department of Community Health, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa
William I.D. Rae, School of Health Sciences, University of Sydney, New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

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Background: Ionising radiation (IR) is an occupational hazard for interventionalists. Dry eye syndrome may develop. There may be damage to the corneal epithelium, causing irritation and ulceration. Radiation-induced cataracts commonly develop in the posterior sub-capsular (PSC) region of the lens and are more common in the left eye.

Aim: The aim of this study was to describe the ophthalmological findings in South African interventionalists occupationally exposed to IR.

Setting: This study was conducted in South Africa.

Methods: A prospective cross-sectional study was conducted. Interventional radiologists (25), adult cardiologists (42) and paediatric cardiologists (31) were recruited at conferences and included in the study. Convenience sampling was used. Participants completed a survey that collected data on their demographics, their cataract risk factors and co-morbid diseases, their occupational history, their radiation safety practices and their training in occupational history. Participants’ eyes were examined using a slit lamp after dilation of the eyes. Ethics clearance was obtained and each participant gave informed consent. A descriptive analysis was done.

Results: The median age of the 98 interventionalists screened was 43.5 years. They worked with radiation for a median of 7.5 years. Cataracts occurred in the left eye of 17 (17.3%) participants and in the right eye of nine (9.2%). There were five (5.1%) PSC cataracts in the left eye and one (1%) in the right eye. The vitreous was abnormal in 19.4% of participants. The tear break-up time was abnormal in 48% of participants.

Conclusion: Ionising radiation is an occupational hazard posing a risk to interventionalists’ eyes. They are at increased risk of cataracts and dry eye syndrome, which can affect their occupational performance and quality of life. Education can positively influence the radiation safety practices of interventionalists that could reduce the detrimental effects of IR on their eyes.


ophthalmological changes; ionising radiation; occupational radiation exposure; radiation cataracts; interventionalists; South Africa


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