Acute effects of radiation exposure following the Chernobyl accident: Immediate results of radiation sickness and outcome of treatment

The effect of penetrating radiation evenly distributed over the whole body was the main cause of the development of general clinical syndromes typical for the dose range 100-1600 rads (1-16 Gy): bone marrow, intestinal and transitional forms or combinations of these syndromes. According to gamma spectrometric measurements of blood and urine samples and posthumous examination of organs and tissues, the maximum concentrations of radioactive iodine-131 in the body were 1-5 mCi (for various patients); for caesium-137 and 134 the figures were 2-2.5 mCi, and contamination by cerium-144 did not exceed 30 mCi (about 95% of cerium activity was in the lungs). Other nuclides did not exceed their MPCs. For plant personnel on site at the time of the accident, the average exposure dose to the lungs was 0.2 Gy, to the thyroid gland 2.5 Gy, and to the whole body about 0.05 Gy. A whole-body dose of 0.7 Gy may, as a general guide, be regarded as the minimum dose causing insignificant but consistent and individually significant changes in the blood picture which are characteristic of acute radiation sickness of the first degree. Variant 1 of a diagnostic programme designed to ensure a uniform approach to the diagnosis of first degree acute radiation sickness has been established. Of 21 patients with acute radiation sickness of the third degree (dose range 4-6 Gy), 14 survived. All patients with acute radiation sickness of the fourth degree died except for one. Generally, death resulted from a combination of clinical syndromes, primarily the intestinal and bone marrow syndromes with total or subtotal skin damage. Recovery of haemopoiesis was extremely active: in 84% of cases, the normal blood picture was re-established after 1 to 1 1/2 years. Indicators of fitness for work returned after 8-9 weeks in patients with first and second degree acute radiation sickness and were high one year after exposure. Some who suffered acute radiation sickness are now working at the Chernobyl plant. Their doses in 1987 did not exceed 0.6 rem. (author). 13 refs, 9 figs, 1 tab.


Gus'kova, A.K.; Nadezhina, N.M.; Barabanova, A.V.; Baranov, A.E.; Gusev, I.A.; Protasova, T.G.; Boguslavskij, V.B.; Pokrovskaya, V.N.


acute irradiation; chernobylsk-4 reactor; external irradiation; internal irradiation; medical examinations; mortality; radiation accidents; radiation doses; radiation syndrome; symptoms; accidents; acute exposure; enriched uranium reactors; graphite moderated reactors; irradiation; lwgr type reactors; medical surveillance; medicine; power reactors; reactors; thermal reactors

Subject Category

Actual Accidents


Report; International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna (Austria); Medical aspects of the Chernobyl accident; IAEA-TECDOC--516.; Jul 1988.; 381 p.; p. 233-256.

Place of Publication

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)


Available from INIS in electronic form.