Answer to Question #9608 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"

Category: Radiation Workers

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


How much radiation exposure would a typical ICU (intensive care unit) nurse be exposed to from a patient having a routine bone scan with an average activity of 650 MBq of 99mTc?


Thank you for your question. It depends on time and distance, but the dose rate would be about 0.01 mSv at one meter.

According to National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements Report 124 (NCRP 1996), the dose rate at the surface of a patient receiving 740 MBq of 99mTc methylene disphosphonate is about 0.06-0.09 mSv h-1, about 0.02-0.03 mSv h-1 at bedside, and about 0.01 mSv h-1 at a meter. This would be within several minutes of having the injection of the radionuclide because after a few hours, this would diminish significantly.

Being close to the patient within the first hour or two after the patient had the scan would give a person nearby the most dose. If you spent 15 minutes per hour for each of the two hours at bedside with the patient, you'd receive about 0.01-0.015 mSv total.

For comparison, one day's worth of natural background radiation is 0.01 mSv, a chest x ray is about 0.1 mSv, and a cross-country plane flight is about 0.05-0.06 mSv.

Kelly Classic
Certified Medical Health Physicist

National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements. Sources and magnitude of occupational and public exposures from nuclear medicine procedures. Bethesda, MD: NCRP; NRCP Report No. 124; 1996.

Answer posted on 8 March 2011. 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.