Answer to Question #9143 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"
The following question was answered by an expert in the appropriate field:
Radiation exposure from nuclear medicine patients to hospital staff varies depending on the type of radiopharmaceutical, how much was administered and when it was administered. The half-life of nuclear medicine radiopharmaceuticals, that is the time it takes for the radioactivity to drop by half, is typically in the two-to-six-hour range although the half-life can be longer.
Sonographers work in close proximity to patients which is why it is reasonable to ask what kind of radiation exposure they might be getting from nuclear medicine patients. Because nuclear medicine patients might undergo additional examinations other hospital staff might also be exposed. The question of "how much radiation exposure" has been researched by direct measurement and reported in publications including the National Council on Radiation Protection & Measurements (Reports No. 124/105).
The Journal of Nuclear Medicine Technology (Volume 23, issue 3, pg. 186-187) published results from a study on radiation exposure to sonographers from patients who were injected with the PET (positron emission tomography) imaging radiopharmaceutical 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG). The conclusion was that the radiation exposure to the sonographer was usually minimal; if there is daily contact with nuclear medicine patients, radiation risks should be assessed. Monitoring for several months may be appropriate. Scheduling patients several hours after their nuclear medicine procedure is a good practice as well as asking the patient to void before the secondary examination. Please contact your hospital radiation safety officer if you have additional work environment concerns.
Dawn Banghart, CHP