Medical test changes require more notification at work
|Talk to the Medical Office if you have a medical scan with radioisotopes.
With an aging workforce, the Medical Office sees more people getting medical scans that use radioisotopes. Many people incorrectly think that these off-hour procedures won't affect their work life.
The United States received a large portion of its medical isotopes from Canada's Chalk River Reactor. When that facility shut down in May, it created a national shortage of the most common short-lived radioisotope used in medical tests, Technetium 99m. As a result, many doctors have reverted to using, at least in part, the former test radioisotope Thallium 201, which has a longer life span in the body. That change makes the typical time period between the scan and wearing a dosimeter inadequate.
Recently some employees have gone for scans assuming that the same materials were in use and that a weekend between their procedure and work was enough to permit them to wear or be near dosimetry badges. These employees were surprised when they set off radiation monitoring devices.
Employees need to keep in mind that their medical tests can have an impact on the radiation monitoring for both themselves and their colleagues and our waste stream.
The best procedure is to inform the safety officers in your department about your medical radiotracer tests so that they aren't taken by surprise.
Often the tracer has stopped emitting on schedule with your doctor's prediction, yet radiation safety officers want assurance that is indeed the case by checking with a handheld meter.
Those new to receiving such medical tests often do not think of the radioisotope's "tracer" element as something that pervades body fluids, urine, nasal discharge, etc., potentially entering Fermilab's waste stream for some time. Also since the test is completed, people may assume incorrectly that there can't be anything detectable.
So, if you have a test planned that will involve a radioisotope, discuss with your safety officer the steps necessary when you return to Fermilab. If the test is unplanned, please stop by the Medical Office when you return to work before you are around dosimeters so that we can help you sort out what needs to be done.
You may also want to tell your doctor your work duties before undergoing the test. One employee received a short-lived isotope once he explained his work.
-- Brian Svazas, MD
Safety Tip of the Week Archive