Interventional cardiologists are significantly exposed to X- rays and no dose of radiation may be considered well tolerated or harmless. Leaded aprons protect the trunk and the thyroid gland, leaded glasses protect the eyes. The operator's legs, arms, neck and head are, instead, not fully protected. In fact, the operator's brain remains the closest part to the primary X-ray beam and scatter in most interventional procedures and specifically the physician's front head is the most exposed region during device implantation performed at the patient's side. After the initial description of cases of brain and neck tumours, additional reports on head and neck malignancies have been published. Although a direct link between operator radiation exposure and brain cancer has not been established, these reports have heightened awareness of a potential association. The use of lead-based cranial dedicated shields may help reduce operator exposure but upward scattered radiation, weight and poor tolerability have raised concerns and hindered widespread acceptance. The purpose of this review is to describe current knowledge on occupational X-ray exposure of interventional cardiologists, with a special focus on the potential risks for the head and neck and efficacy of available protection devices.

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