Nuclear medicine practices in the 1950s through the mid-1970s and occupational radiation doses to technologists from diagnostic radioisotope procedures
Data on occupational radiation exposure from nuclear medicine procedures for the time period of the 1950s through the 1970s is important for retrospective health risk studies of medical personnel who conducted those activities. However, limited information is available on occupational exposure received by physicians and technologists who performed nuclear medicine procedures during those years. To better understand and characterize historical radiation exposures to technologists, the authors collected information on nuclear medicine practices in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. To collect historical data needed to reconstruct doses to technologists, a focus group interview was held with experts who began using radioisotopes in medicine in the 1950s and the 1960s. Typical protocols and descriptions of clinical practices of diagnostic radioisotope procedures were defined by the focus group and were used to estimate occupational doses received by personnel, per nuclear medicine procedure, conducted in the 1950s to 1960s using radiopharmaceuticals available at that time. The radionuclide activities in the organs of the reference patient were calculated using the biokinetic models described in ICRP Publication 53. Air kerma rates as a function of distance from a reference patient were calculated by Monte Carlo radiation transport calculations using a hybrid computational phantom. Estimates of occupational doses to nuclear medicine technologists per procedure were found to vary from less than 0.01 μSv (thyroid scan with 1.85 MBq of administered I-iodide) to 0.4 μSv (brain scan with 26 MBq of Hg-chlormerodin). Occupational doses for the same diagnostic procedures starting in the mid-1960s but using Tc were also estimated. The doses estimated in this study show that the introduction of Tc resulted in an increase in occupational doses per procedure.