Patients are not the only ones at risk during cardiac procedures; doctors also face health risks, especially radiation risk to their eyes.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is helping to raise awareness of threats, through training in radiation protection related to medical uses of X-ray imaging systems.
The issue of protection from radiation for doctors is particularly acute in the case of lengthy angioplasty and other cardiac interventions performed under X-ray fluoroscopic guidance.
Fluoroscopy provides X-ray images of a patient that physicians can view on a display screen or monitor in real time.
The procedure can cause extensive radiation exposure to cardiologists, possibly leading to cataract, alongside other longer term health risks.
The IAEA is helping the medical community address this problem through a major international initiative aimed at training cardiologists and other medical professionals in radiation protection.
The study is being led by a team of experts, including Eliseo Vano, radiology department of the Complutense University of Madrid; Norman Kleiman, Columbia University, New York; local ophthalmologists from Bogota and Raul Ramirez of the IAEA Department of Technical Cooperation.
The initiative is part of an international action plan on the radiological protection of patients spearheaded by the IAEA.
"In the meeting of Latin American cardiologists, we will offer participants the possibility to have their eyes tested for early changes of radiation effect that may lead to cataract in future years," said Eliseo Vano.
"This will allow us to assess retrospectively what radiation dose these cardiologists received, and then correlate the data with changes in their lens," Vano added.
IAEA´s Madan Rehani, a radiation safety specialist, said "we started training courses for cardiologists in 2004 and so far cardiologists from more than 50 countries have been trained in radiation protection".
This September, the IAEA is organising a study to test the eyes of interventional cardiologists participating in a regional medical conference, organised by the Latin American Society of Interventional Cardiologists (SOLACI) in Bogota, Colombia.