Reducing Risks from Sources in Medical Uses


Preventing loss and theft of sources

While proper training and experience will reduce the risk of radiation exposure when sealed radioactive sources are used, the vast majority of serious accidents are due to a source that has been lost or stolen. Good operational practices and procedures can reduce such accidents by preventing a source from becoming lost or stolen in the first place.

Maintain proper records of all radiation sources, including isotope, activity, manufacturer, and the name of person responsible.
Establish an effective accounting system for all sources including: a periodic physical inventory of stock to confirm location of sources, a regular check of all sources stored in containers, and a movement log to track sources when taken out of storage, in use, or returned.
Maintain and service equipment regularly as recommended by the manufacturer.
Secure all sources to prevent theft.


Keep a shielded container in the treatment area during use to house the source safely should it accidentally be removed from the patient.
Use care when using a source in an applicator to ensure that it is securely closed or covered.
Suture radioactive needles in the patient to prevent them working loose.
Ensure that the number of sources removed from the patient equal the number inserted.
Monitor for radiation with a dose rate survey meter after completion of therapy to ensure that no source remains in the patient, treatment area, or ward.
If sources are unaccounted for, monitor dressing and excreta from patient for radioactive sources before disposal.
If a source still cannot be accounted for, monitor all containers (soiled dressing bins, laundry baskets, etc.) coming from the treatment ward for radioactivity. If necessary, monitor likely routes from treatment room to laundry or waste collection areas or other likely areas for signs of radioactivity.
Return sources to stores as soon as possible after use, using a shielded container for transport.

Emergency Planning

All users of sealed radioactive sources should have a contingency plan in place for emergencies, such as a damaged, lost, or stolen source. The plan should detail who is responsible, who must be contacted, and how to get outside assistance to deal with the emergency.

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