Top 10 Common Injuries for a Radiologic Technologist

Reading Time: 6 minutes

rad tech injuries

Top 10  common types of injury for radiologic technologists:

  • Back injuries
  • Needle sticks
  • Bodily fluid exposure
  • Airborne pathogen exposure
  • plantar fasciitis
  • knee pain
  • shoulder pain
  • hand pain
  • wrist injuries (tfcc tear)
  • major joints

Note: Any injury should be reported to the proper authorities within the organization. They should be tracked and audited for quality improvement. This also helps with the follow-up care of the injured employee.

Safety protocols exist for most of these situations. It is the responsibility of every employee to follow safety measures.

This article is also available for viewing on YouTube

Positioning Class and Proper Lifting Techniques


We move patients around during the examination for one major reason. The reason is that you cannot be completely sure of a bone fracture if you only see it from one angle.

Each time we take an x-ray we have to obtain a minimum of two different angles. Most protocols require three different views of each body part.

They are an AP view (anterioposterior), Lateral and Oblique. Our ability to put the body parts in this correct placement is another skill that we learned in school called positioning.

We are also taught proper moving and lifting techniques for our safety and for the patient. You have to be very careful when positioning a patient who is heavy or larger than you.

If you do not use proper technique it is easy to injure your back, wrists, shoulders and other parts of your body.

Back Injuries Common to Rad Techs

Rad techs have to constantly move patients on the examination table. We also assist patients in and out of their wheelchairs.

Throughout the day, we assist other healthcare employees with many gurneys to bed transfers. These all require proper techniques to reduce the risk of injury.

The fact that we do these every day of our careers is why it is taught in radiography school.

The best trick for this that I have learned for prevention of injury is to always place a bed sheet under each patient. This gives you a slippery surface to move your patient around on.

You can also ask the patient to move unassisted. But they are not always able to and you have to assist them.

I once pulled a hamstring muscle sliding a large patient up on a CT table by myself. I recovered quickly but the lesson was learned.

Asking other technologists to help you is also encouraged. Many times throughout the day we help each other position large patients.

We simply poke our head in the control area and say “lift help in 5” to request help in exam room #5.

This greatly reduces the risk for everyone when multiple team members get involved.

Needle Sticks Common to Rad Techs

While not as painful as some injuries these can certainly be cause for alarm. A “clean” needle stick is when an employee is punctured by a needle that has not been used in any way.

A “dirty” needle stick is when an employee has been punctured by a needle that was used in any fashion. Although there is less concern for a dirty needle that was only used to draw up contrast or medicine.

The most concern is a dirty needle that has been inserted into a patient.

The most common occurrence I see of a clean needle stick is when technologists (or nurses) are setting up for procedures.

I have seen technologists reach for a needle or scalpel when it is falling off the tray. It is also common to stick your finger if you attempt to recap a needle for any reason.

This is an old practice and should no longer be done. Safety mechanisms are in place on needles today to allow for a one-handed needle closure after use.

The other common needle stick situation is when a patient moves or jerks during an intravenous insertion or blood draw.

A common method for these techniques is to use one hand to hold the patient’s skin taught while using the other hand to guide the needle into the skin. This places the holding hand in front of the sticking hand.

Any sudden movement by the patient while the insertion hand is in forwarding motion and you run a risk of poking yourself.

This is a clean needle stick because the needle hasn’t entered the patient but is still troublesome nonetheless.

If you do get stuck in any manner you need to report this to your administrator. There are drugs that need to be administered to the employee in certain situations after a dirty needle stick.

Body Fluid Precautions for Rad Techs

There are three kinds of precautions that technologists must be prepared for and we learn about them in school:

  • Airborne precautions – necessary steps must be taken by employees who come in contact with a patient who has an active illness that can be spread through the air by coughing, sneezing, etc. In these cases, employees must wear a specific mask called an N95. Handwashing before and after visiting the patient.
  • Contact precautions – this precaution means you have to protect yourself from coming in contact with any bodily fluid by wearing a gown, gloves, and mask. Handwashing before and after visiting the patient.
  • Universal precautions – this is the gold standard where we treat all body fluids as if they were contaminated. Simply put, wear gloves if you are going to touch something questionable.

Yellow will protect you!

There are also situations where a face mask that covers the mouth or a full face shield that covers the entire face is necessary.

Working in the operating room, for example, requires all the above and a hair bonnet and shoe booties to further protect the technologist.

Accidents can still occur that cause exposure, even when fully “gowned up.” Bodily fluids can splatter landing on an unprotected area of the employee. 

I have seen some hip replacements that left the room looking like an explosion went off.

Airborne Pathogens are a Danger to Rad Techs

A constant concern for rad techs is finding out after we do a chest x-ray on a patient, that the patient tested positive for tuberculosis.

It is standard practice for patients who have a persistent cough to receive a chest x-ray. Often times imaging is the first step along the diagnostic path in figuring out what is going on inside a patient.

There is no way of knowing your patient has a disease until we can help diagnose it. In the meantime, if you notice your patient has a persistent cough, the best thing you can do is wear a mask yourself.

There are also times a patient is sent down to the imaging department for examination and the techs aren’t informed of the current precautions.

There are dozens of times that I heard about my techs returning their patients to their inpatient rooms only to find the warning label on the patient’s door.

These labels are used to inform lab personnel, nurses, aides, visitors and anyone else visiting the patient that precautions must be taken before seeing the patient.

But the staff on the floor forget to tell the staff in imaging. They put in the request for a transporter to take the patient from the room to the imaging department so the techs never see the sign on the door.

This is why it is always a good idea to wash your hands religiously. Leave your work shoes at your front door and don’t wear them into your house. Keep your long hair pulled back in ponytail or up in a bun.

Anything you can do to reduce your risk is worth every step.

Other tech reported injuries to include:

  • plantar fasciitis
  • knee pain
  • shoulder pain
  • hand pain
  • wrist injuries (tfcc tear)
  • major joints
  • “my patience for providers”

Additional Information:

If you are curious about the career of radiography, I have written some articles on various topics: 

I hope you find this helpful. You are welcome to email me with any questions. Thanks for stopping by

Ron Jones MSRS, RT (R,CT) ARRT

Ron is huge radiology nerd. It started with Xray school at Pima Medical Institute in Mesa, AZ. He was crosstrained in CT during his Xray clinical rotations at Mesa General Hospital. Then immediately returned to school for ultrasound at Gateway Community College as he started his first job as an Xray/CT Tech. Not much later learned MRI out of necessity at his small rural hospital in Apache Junction, AZ. A decade later he found himself as a manager in a level one trauma center. Currently he is a system operations director over an entire hospital system and loves every minute of it.

3 thoughts on “Top 10 Common Injuries for a Radiologic Technologist

  1. Retired Reg Rad Tech..18 yrs, Reg Radiation Therapist..30 yrs. All injuries last 17 yrs in Radiation Therapy.
    1-Bilateral Plantar Fasciitis… surgery
    2-Rotor Cuff… surgery
    3-Herniated L1-L4…surgery
    4-Wore out bilateral cartilage base of thumbs…surgery
    5-Multiple needle sticks
    6-Multiple body fluids
    Been retired 7.5 yrs from the best career choice. Loved my patients & really miss them & my career❣️

  2. Pingback: Contusion vs Concussion - What is the Difference?
  3. Pingback: How Much do Xray Techs Make per Hour with Four Years Experience?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Content

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This