Nuclear medicine patients: No-alarm holiday travel tips

RESTON, Va. -- Traveling during the holidays--especially for the nearly 60,000 individuals who daily undergo a nuclear medicine treatment or test in this country--will go smoother if medical professionals advise their patients to follow some simple tips from SNM, the leading international molecular imaging and nuclear medicine society.

"Due to heightened concerns about terrorism, sensitive radiation detectors are used in some major cities and in public transportation facilities," explained SNM President Martin P. Sandler. "Occasionally, a patient who has had a nuclear medicine procedure may be stopped by security personnel because he or she may trigger the alarm on a radiation detector. On rare occasions, this could cause long delays, interrogation and body searches," added Sandler, who speaks for 16,000 physician, technologist and scientist members of the international scientific and professional society.

Nuclear medicine, which is broadening its scope to include molecular imaging, involves using tiny amounts of radioactive materials in patients to examine molecular processes in the body. These procedures can be used to detect and evaluate heart disease, cancer, brain disorders and stress fractures. Commonly performed procedures include positron emission tomography (PET) scans to diagnose and monitor treatment in cancer, cardiac stress tests to analyze heart function, bone scans to detect orthopedic injuries and lung scans blood clots.

Although the material used for these procedures is minute and soon loses its radioactivity, it may take time before a patient stops emitting detectable levels of radiation. The sensing devices used today at security screening points are extremely sensitive. "Residual radiation from medical treatments may cause travel delays due to increased security scanning at places such as airport boarding areas, rail stations, ports, international border crossings, bridges, tunnels and large public gatherings,"

Contact: Maryann Verrillo
Society of Nuclear Medicine

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