Author(s): Saenger EL
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Abstract It is essential that emergency physicians understand ways to manage patients contaminated by radioactive materials and/or exposed to external radiation sources. Contamination accidents require careful surveys to identify the metabolic pathway of the radionuclides to guide prognosis and treatment. The level of treatment required will depend on careful surveys and meticulous decontamination. There is no specific therapy for the acute radiation syndrome. Prophylactic antibodies are desirable. For severely exposed patients treatment is similar to the supportive care given to patients undergoing organ transplantation. For high-dose extremity injury, no methods have been developed to reverse the fibrosing endarteritis that eventually leads to tissue death so frequently found with this type of injury. Although the Three Mile Island episode of March 1979 created tremendous public concern, there were no radiation injuries. The contamination outside the reactor building and the release of radioiodine were negligible. The accidental fuel element meltdown at Chernobyl, USSR, resulted in many cases of acute radiation syndrome. More than 100,000 people were exposed to high levels of radioactive fallout. The general principles outlined here are applicable to accidents of that degree of severity.
This article was published in Ann Emerg Med
and referenced in Journal of Bioequivalence & Bioavailability