Answer to Question #7673 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:

Today I had a stress test done for my heart where I received the normal radioactive tracer and they took pictures of my chest while I was at rest, then performed the exercise test, then continued to document my chest. My real concern is, being a 25-year-old mother of an eight-month-old, how soon can I hold or handle my baby after such a procedure, and can I feed her via bottle (her resting on a pillow, not in my arms)? Also, will the shedding of such radiation bother my other family members (husband and 12-year-old son)? I also was wondering how many hours of direct sunlight  that level of radiation compares to.

If you want to be conservative and keep the dose low to your baby, I would say one day gives your body time to eliminate the radioactive tracer. Holding the baby just while feeding her would not be an excessive dose. My hospital does not put any restrictions on time with family members after diagnostic exams. Drinking lots of fluids helps with the elimination of the radioactive tracer. Most of it is gone after a day.

As far as the radiation dose, I can't give you a good estimate since I need to know what radioactive tracer they used and how much activity they administered. Stress tests usually are equivalent to three years of the average natural background radiation in the United States (around 10 millisievert). But natural background radiation is not from direct sunlight; it is from outer space (cosmic), the earth, radon, the food we eat, and the water we drink. As noted in the Health Physics Society Position Statement on "Radiation Risk in Perspective," there are no demonstrated health effects for radiation exposures below 50-100 millisievert.
Marcia Hartman

Answer posted on 8 July 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.