Patients receiving radioisotope scans could trigger false security alarms at airports

07/20/05

EMBARGO: 00:01H (London time) Friday July 22, 2005. In North America the embargo lifts at 6:30pm ET Thursday July 21, 2005.

People having a scan that involves radioisotopes should be warned that they could set off security radiation alarms in airports for up to 30 days after the procedure, state the authors of a case report in this week's issue of THE LANCET. Richard Underwood (Royal Brompton Hospital, London, UK) and colleagues are calling for patients to be issued with an information card after diagnostic or therapeutic procedures involving radioisotopes as standard practice.

Over 18 million diagnostic and therapeutic procedures involving radioisotopes are carried out each year. Radioisotopes in scans such as those involving the thyroid gland, bone, and blood flow to the heart muscle, as well as radioactive iodine therapy, render patients temporarily radioactive. As a result, patients are at risk of setting off radiation alarms at airports.

Professor Underwood comments: "Stricter measure, and more sensitive radiation detection systems, are being deployed at airports worldwide. It is important to warn patients having had a thallium scan that they may trigger radiation detectors for up to 30 days. It should be standard practice to issue patients with an information card after diagnostic or therapeutic procedures involving radioisotopes. The card should state the date and place of the procedure, the radioisotope used and its half-life, potential duration of radioactive emissions from the patient, and details on who to contact for verification if necessary…Patient information cards could lessen the impact of such false alarms and avoid unnecessary interrogations by airport security personnel."

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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