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Managing and Minimizing Incidents and Errors in Nuclear Medicine

Training course participants visit the nuclear medicine unit of the Vienna General Hospital to better understand their error- and accident-prevention schemes. (Photo: O. Pellet/IAEA)

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The number of nuclear medicine facilities in Africa has increased from 57 to 74 over the last decade, according to the IAEA’s Nuclear Medicine Database. The increase in access to nuclear medicine services has helped many patients and at the same time highlights the importance of minimizing and mitigating the risks of accidental radiation exposure to patients, medical staff or the public during such procedures. To support countries in Africa in this regard, the IAEA recently hosted a Regional Training Course on the Prevention of Accidents and Incidents in Nuclear Medicine at its Vienna headquarters, from 22 to 26 July.

The field of nuclear medicine involves the use of radionuclides for diagnosis, disease-staging, therapy and monitoring the response of patients. Whether diagnostic or therapeutic, nuclear medicine involves the use of radiopharmaceuticals—as a result, the general principles and best practices of radiation protection must be applied.

Planned to promote adherence to the IAEA Safety Standards and to other relevant guidelines, the week-long training course was organized under an ongoing, regional technical cooperation (TC) project[1] and was attended by 21 professionals from Algeria, Kenya, Mauritius, Morocco, Namibia, Tunisia, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The course was organized as an interactive learning experience and included didactic lectures, facilitated discussions, hands-on exercises and a visit to Nuclear Medicine Department of Vienna’s General Hospital (Allgemeines Krankenhaus). Information provided during the training included both theoretical and practical recommendations to reduce errors and accidents in the application of nuclear medicine. From the use of Incident Learning Systems and the development of an effective safety culture to the analysis of the human factor, the training course encouraged the consideration of all possible causes and sources of accidents.

Participants of the regional training course. (Photo: H. Pattison/IAEA)

"This training will help us to put into place safety systems, by promoting awareness of the potential for accidents and by providing the necessary tools to evaluate patient safety in our medical facilities," said Skander Rahabi, nuclear medicine physician from CHU de Bab El Oued Hospital in Algeria.

Among other exercises, the participants delivered presentations of errors in their facility, and worked to develop an action plan on the basis of the training course’s material which, following implementation, will improve safety in their facility.

As one of the training course experts, Mario Marengo said, “Having a multidisciplinary panel of lecturers made the presentations, discussions and exercises very interesting and helped to provide a comprehensive approach to the potential problems associated with accidents and errors relevant to nuclear medicine service.”

[1] RAF6051, ‘Strengthening Education and Human Resources Development for Expansion and Sustainability of Nuclear Medicine Services in Africa’

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Technical Cooperation Programme

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