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Background: Occupational exposure to ionising radiation may have detrimental health effects. Longer and more complex fluoroscopic procedures have placed interventionalists at increased occupational health risks especially for developing cataracts in the radiosensitive lenses of the eyes.
Objectives: This study aimed to determine the prevalence of occupational related cataracts and describe the risk factors for cataracts in occupationally exposed interventionalists compared with unexposed doctors.
Method: A cross-sectional study using multiple methods. A survey was conducted. The radiation workload was determined based on a self-administered questionnaire and dose area product values determined in previous studies. Both groups had slit lamp examinations. The data were analysed analytically using R software version 9.3.
Results: The study included 98 interventionalists. The combined prevalence of posterior subcapsular (PSC) and cortical cataracts was 18.8% in the exposed and 13.9% in the unexposed group. The prevalence of PSC cataracts in the exposed group was 5.9% and 2.8% in the unexposed group, with an odds ratio (OR) of 2.2 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.58; 8.61). Posterior sub-capsular cataracts were more common in the left eye. The increase in cataracts was not statistically significant in the exposed group but is of clinical significance.
Conclusion: The findings are important as they highlight the need for greater vigilance for protecting the radiation healthcare workforce in a developing country setting.
Contribution: The research is the first of its kind in South Africa and Africa and contributes to determining the prevalence in this highly skilled and occupationally vulnerable group.