Contamination by low level radioactive substances

Any such patient must be discussed with the EM Consultant on-call

Principles of management

  1. It is the responsibility of the Gardaí on the site to contact hospital radiation staff for advice.
  2. Contaminated casualties will normally be taken to nominated regional hospitals but seriously ill patients will be taken to the nearest Emergency Department.
  3. Life saving treatment is of over-riding importance.
  4. The emphasis throughout management is to limit the spread of contamination
  5. Low-level contamination presents no immediate hazard to the ED or hospital staff.


  1. On receipt of notification by the Emergency Services, a treatment area in which the patients can be isolated should be set aside. Ideally, this area should be equipped with a shower and irrigation facilities but if these are not available, disposable polythene sheeting should be placed on the floor and other indispensable items which may become contaminated. Adequate amounts of paper and absorbent material e.g. cotton wool will be required. Air conditioning equipment should be switched off. Patients should preferably be admitted through a separate entrance.
  2. A controller should be nominated to record details of all personnel in contact with the contaminated area.
  3. Contact the Local Radiation Protection Officer who will be responsible for quantification of the level of radioactive contamination and advice.
  4. Mark out an area where ambulances can be examined after arrival and decontaminated if necessary.
  5. All staff who may be exposed to radio-active substances should be issued with overalls/aprons, boots and gloves.
  6. On arrival, seriously ill or injured patients should be directed to appropriate resuscitation facilities. The remainder should be contained in the decontamination area.
  7. A senior member of staff should liaise with the hospital administrator to deal with enquiries.

Techniques for Emergency Decontamination

The irradiated patient

  • These individuals do not require emergency management except in the case of burns which should be irrigated as above before being treated according to standard practice.
  • The development of radiation sickness is a delayed phenomenon and any patient suspected of this should be referred to the nearest Oncology Unit.

Content by Dr Íomhar O' Sullivan 24/02/2004. Reviewed by Dr ÍOS 02/05/2005, 06/01/2007, 05/03/2008. Last review Dr IOS 27/05/21.