Most radiologists and other radiology staff rely on film readers to view and record images from radiological exams. With the increasing use of digital x-ray, the need to store exposed patient film has also increased.
With the convenience of film readers and the advancements of digital x-ray, there is no longer a need to keep printing, developing, and scanning paper x-rays. Now that digital x-rays are stored on computers and devices, they can be accessed and analyzed at any time. This makes film obsolete as far as patient care is concerned. At least, it largely does. There are still instances where paper x-rays are required for medical record keeping, as well as for insurance purposes.
A 2016 survey from VHA found that only 12% of health care organizations store film in the dark, 10% store them in the closet, and 7% leave them in other places around the office. A whopping 79% of hospitals store film in light-tight boxes or folders.
The above findings indicate that the places we usually store film are not safe or suitable for keeping it due to the risk of fire or moisture damage.
A more secure and practical option for storing film is in a refrigerator. This is because refrigerators offer protection from physical harm and can also be programmed to automatically lock the door when plugged in, reducing the chances of theft. Refrigerators with a freezer add an extra layer of safety through the insulation they provide, shielding sensitive film from direct contact with external heat sources such as the sun or an open fire.
The bottom line is that if you store film in a refrigerator, it will remain stable and safe. This includes all types of x-rays, whether it be for an adult or a child. If you store them in the freezer, they will remain frozen solid and will not thaw or degrade.
Risks of Fire
We can never underestimate the risk of fire. In fact, it’s a serious and common cause of hospital emergency room visits. According to the NFPA, electrical fires are the number one cause of injuries and fatalities in the U.S. due to fires or electrical malfunctions.
It’s important to note that not all electrical fires are created equal. For instance, a short circuit within a breaker panel is typically harmless unless it’s overloaded or faulty wiring is involved. If a fire starts from any of these causes, then it’s usually contained within the breaker panel or wiring, and isn’t an extension of the fire to other nearby equipment or material. In these cases, the danger of fire is relatively low.
Short circuits and overloads can be caused by aging wiring, which can become brittle and susceptible to damage. This creates the potential for a catastrophic fire.
It’s also important to properly dispose of any unused or damaged electrical equipment. Incorrect disposal can lead to serious environmental damage. Hospitals especially need to be careful with this due to the presence of hazardous materials such as lithium ions which are used in certain types of scanners.
In the event of a power failure, it’s imperative that all equipment is shut down and unplugged before attempting to re-power it. This is when many electrical failures occur since there’s no way of knowing when power will come back on. You can also reduce the risk of electrical fires by storing equipment and materials away from heat sources such as the sun or an open fire.
Risks of Moisture
Just because film is digital doesn’t mean it’s immune to damage from water or moisture. In fact, it’s highly susceptible to this, especially when exposed to direct sunlight or rain showers. If stored in a place where it’s prone to getting wet, it will deteriorate and become unusable.
These are all risks that you need to be aware of if you decide to store film in the places mentioned above. In most instances, you will not encounter any problems as long as you use the proper storage methods. The important thing is to be consistent and make sure that your storage practices are applied to all types of film to avoid any headaches or risks down the road.