Answer to Question #8053 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"

Category: Nuclear Medicine Patient Issues — Therapeutic Nuclear Medicine

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

I wish to know whether a nuclear medicine department can be permitted to be established in a residential building or area. If yes, why? and If no, why? Is it advisable for one to plan a stand-alone radioiodine therapy and isolation ward facility or should it be in a hospital premises?

A nuclear medicine clinic can be licensed just about anywhere, even on a recreational vehicle, as long as it meets the state or federal regulations and any commercial zoning requirements.

As far as the radiation safety regulators are concerned, the facility needs a qualified radiation safety officer, a qualified nuclear medicine physician, certified nuclear medicine technologists, and a comprehensive radiation safety program. The program must address all radiation safety issues with regard to their patients, their employees, and the public. The facility has to apply for a license and the regulators have an extensive checklist of items that they review before giving a radioactive material license to a facility.

The administrators of the facility must ensure that no member of the public can receive more than 1 mSv per year due to the operation of the facility. This is a federal regulation. The radiation safety officer usually places environmental dosimeters around the facility and monitors continuously to document to the public and the regulators that they are meeting the legal requirements. Environmental dosimeters are devices that measure radiation exposure, both from the facility and background radiation from the earth and outer space. Dosimeters are usually placed in the environment for a month or a quarter and continually changed out as long as the facility is in operation. Natural background radiation is less than 0.01 mSv a day or 3.1 mSv in a year. 

As far as the facility being stand-alone or located in a hospital, there are many facilities that are not located in hospitals. The rationale is that the procedures can be performed on an outpatient basis and they are primarily diagnostic exams. There is little need for the resuscitation capabilities that a hospital can provide.

Marcia Hartman, M.S.

Answer posted on 12 March 2009. 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.