Answer to Question #7485 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"

Category: Nuclear Medicine Patient Issues — Diagnostic Nuclear Medicine

The following question was answered by an expert in the appropriate field:

Q
I work as a cardiac sonographer in a heart center. Many patients have a nuclear medicine scan and an echocardiogram ordered. The nuclear medicine department likes to inject the radionuclide first and then give the patient to me to make the work flow more efficiently. I argue that whether the radiation dose that I have received over the last 20 years and continue to receive is dangerous or not, I would rather not be exposed any more. Do I have a leg to stand on?

A

There is a very easy way to see how much radiation exposure you are receiving from the patients with whom you are working after their nuclear medicine injections. Ask your radiation safety officer for a dosimetry badge to wear for a few months. Then you will know what dose you are receiving over a period of time.

There are a couple of different radiopharmaceuticals that are used for cardiac studies, so it is not easy to estimate what your exposure is from the patients on whom you are performing diagnostic studies every day.

The regulations require that workers be provided with radiation dosimetry if it is expected that they would receive more than 5 millisievert (mSv) in one year. I don't know of a radiation safety officer who would not issue a badge and get a definitive answer to your question.

My guess is that your dose is less than 5 mSv in a year. I do not think you are in danger of too much radiation exposure. In case you are not aware, the annual radiation dose limit for workers is 50 mSv per year in the U.S. Cardiologists receive some of the highest doses in the hospital year after year from their exposure in the cardiac catheterization lab from scatter radiation while performing fluoroscopy. There is no evidence that receiving doses under the regulatory limits has harmed anyone.

You should wear your badge on your collar and leave it at work so that it doesn't go through the washing machine.

Concern about the unknown is not how we want to spend our lives, especially if it is a workplace issue. Luckily, the answer to your question is relatively easy to determine.

Marcia Hartman, MS
 

Answer posted on 30 May 2008. The information posted on this web page is intended as general reference information only. Specific facts and circumstances may affect the applicability of concepts, materials, and information described herein. The information provided is not a substitute for professional advice and should not be relied upon in the absence of such professional advice. To the best of our knowledge, answers are correct at the time they are posted. Be advised that over time, requirements could change, new data could be made available, and Internet links could change, affecting the correctness of the answers. Answers are the professional opinions of the expert responding to each question; they do not necessarily represent the position of the Health Physics Society.