A disproportionate incidence of thyroid disease including cancer is causing concern among Orthopaedic Surgeons who are exposed to higher than usual amounts of radiation in their day-to-day exposure and use of radiological services including image intensifiers.

National Chairman of the Australian Society of Orthopaedic Surgeons, Dr John Harrison said that “although no epidemiological studies have been completed on the incidence of thyroid cancer in Orthopaedic Surgeons a recent survey conducted by the Australian Orthopaedic Association indicated a potential thyroid carcinoma rate in Orthopaedic Surgeons of 1 in 200 for Australia, well above that expected in comparable Australian population of 1 to 3 per 100,000 per annum. ”

“I want to state quite clearly that these are very early results and need substantiation from more indepth surveys not only of doctors but of entire operating teams who work in areas of proximity to radiation services. I am particularly concerned that hospital registrars be made aware of the potential hazards and that all hospitals public and private move immediately to ensure that all equipment emitting radiation is functioning to safety specifications”, Dr Harrison said.

“Public and private hospitals should also ensure adequate safety equipment, in particular, fuller body protection including neck shields are available to be used when operating equipment emitting ionised radiation is used”, Dr Harrison said.

“We need to do our utmost to prevent (preventable) cancers in our young doctors in training, our nurses and patients”.

“Funding must be forthcoming so that urgent research and advice for improving or guaranteeing safety mechanisms for safer imaging processes can occur as soon as possible”.

The Australian Orthopaedic Association will meet in Sydney on Saturday 19 July 1997 to consider the preliminary findings of increased thyroid disease in Orthopaedic Surgeons.