Gonad shielding in pelvic radiography: modern optimised X-ray systems might allow its discontinuation

Cecile R. L. P. N. Jeukens*, Gerhard Kutterer, Pierre J. Kicken, Marij J. Frantzen, Jos M. A. van Engelshoven, Joachim E. Wildberger, Gerrit J. Kemerink

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Objective As gonad shielding is currently under debate, this study evaluates the practice, from its introduction in about 1905 until today. Methods The literature was searched for developments in shielding and insights into the effects of ionising radiation on gonads. Based on own pre-1927 dose reconstructions, reported doses after 1927, a 2015-report from the European Union and recent own measurements, the effects of technological evolution and optimisation on radiation dose and hereditary risk were assessed. Results In the 1900s, gonad shielding was first applied to prevent male sterility, but was discontinued when instrumental developments led to reduced radiation doses. In the 1950s, concerns about hereditary risks intensified and gonad shielding was recommended again, becoming routine worldwide. Imaging-chain improvements over time were considerable: in 2018, the absorbed dose was 0.5% of its 1905 value for the testes and 2% for the ovaries, our optimised effective dose a factor five lower than the value corresponding to the current EU diagnostic reference level, and the reduction in detriment-adjusted risk by shielding less than 1 x 10(-6) for women and 5 x 10(-6) for men. Conclusions Assessment of pelvic doses revealed a large reduction in radiation risks facilitated by technological developments. Optimisation likewise contributed, but unfortunately, its potential was never adequately exploited. Today, using a modern and optimised X-ray system, gonad shielding can be safely discontinued for women. For men, there might be a marginal benefit, but potential negative side-effects may well dominate. Discontinuation of gonad shielding seems therefore justifiable.

Original languageEnglish
Article number15
Number of pages11
JournalInsights into Imaging
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 7 Feb 2020


  • Gonad shielding
  • Pelvic radiography
  • Gonad radiation dose
  • Hereditary radiation risk
  • Optimisation

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