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Instructions after radiation lacking

December 31, 2007|From Times Wire Reports

Outpatient clinics that perform diagnostic procedures using radioactive materials could do a better job of telling patients that they may set off radiation detectors at security checkpoints, a study shows.

Information and documentation that these facilities provide to patients "varies widely" in terms of quality, said Armin Ansari, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who was involved in the study. "Some are extremely well done, some are not."

A person who has a bone, thyroid or heart scan with radioactive material, or cancer treatment with radioactive implants, can trigger a radiation alarm for days or even months after the procedure, depending on the type of radiopharmaceutical used, Ansari and colleague Dr. Luba Katz of Abt Associates in Cambridge, Mass., said in the Journal of Nuclear Medicine.

There have been reports of people activating such alarms and being questioned and, in some cases, strip searched, by security officials. Since Sept. 11, radiation monitors are increasingly being used for security purposes, and millions of people undergo procedures involving radioactive material every year.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission suggests hospitals and clinics tell patients who are given radiopharmaceuticals that they run the risk of triggering a radiation alarm, and give them documentation to provide to law enforcement officials if necessary.

The researchers surveyed 89 healthcare professionals working at 66 facilities using radiopharmaceuticals in 12 states to examine procedures for informing patients of these risks.

Fewer than two-thirds gave patients documentation, while about one-third said they would provide it on request. Documentation varied from standardized cards providing information on the type of radioactive material used and its half-life, as well as a phone number to call for more information, to handwritten notes on prescription pads or blank paper, which Ansari said would likely not be acceptable to law enforcement.

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