May 28, 2002 Reston, VA … "Focus on care, not fear" is the key message health care professionals will hear at a special session dealing with "Terrorism Involving Radioactive Materials" Saturday, June 15, at the Society of Nuclear Medicine Annual Meeting in Los Angeles, CA.
"There are many misconceptions about radiation and the health threat it poses--particularly in an immediate post-incident period," stated SNM Vice-President Elect Henry Royal, MD, who will be one of the presenters. "Care for people who may have suffered traumatic wounds should not be delayed because of unfounded fears about radioactive contamination. Our goal is to help overcome these fears and, at the same time, ensure the medical and response community plan appropriately for this possibility."
The truth about radioactive exposure, probable types of events and planning steps will all be part of the session. Attendees will discover that the public and many health care professionals are misinformed about the health effects of radiation and the threat posed by terrorism involving radioactive materials. Royal cited two examples of common misconceptions.
First, that patients will be extremely "radioactive." The truth: in a vast majority of cases, the amount of radiation a contaminated victim would emit is less than the amount emitted by a patient who has had a typical, safe nuclear medicine procedure.
Second, that treating a patient with radioactive contamination requires extraordinary precautions greater than required for a chemical or biological agent. The truth: unlike a chemical or biological agent, which may directly affect response team health professionals, a patient with radioactive contamination can be safely treated with minimal precautions.
There are more than 2700 nuclear medicine physicians and 14,000 nuclear medicine technologists in the United States today who deal with radioactive tracers daily. They performed more than 11 million nuclear medicine procedures last year. They know more about radioactive contamination issues than any other segment of the health community. The seminar is designed to help those in the nuclear medicine field prepare for the unique responsibility and situations with which they may be forced to deal in the event of a nuclear incident. It is also designed to provide them with the tools to go back to their institutions--and allay fears among other non-nuclear medical professionals.
SNM members, Henry D. Royal, MD and Jonathan Links, PhD will join Eric Kearsley PhD, CHP and Fred Mettler, MD, to provide those present suggestions on how to plan and prepare for terrorist acts involving the use of radioactive materials. Kearsley and Mettler were involved in the creation of a recent report on this topic by the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP Report No. 138). A checklist for hospital planners will also be distributed.
The Society of Nuclear Medicine Annual Meeting is being held June 15-19 at the Los Angeles Convention Center, Los Angeles, CA. In addition to educational sessions, the meeting will focus on leading medical developments in the field of nuclear medicine including radioimmunotherapies, which are a new class of drugs fighting cancer, diagnostic breakthroughs with Positron Emission Tomography (PET) and other topics. More than 5,000 specialists in the field of nuclear medicine--including scientists, technologists, researchers and private industry--are expected to attend. The Society of Nuclear Medicine is an international scientific and professional organization of more than 13,000 members dedicated to promoting the science, technology and practical applications of nuclear medicine. The SNM is based in Reston, VA.