Some Patients Receiving Diagnostic Tests Stopped by Homeland Security Devices
The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday examined the difficulties that Homeland Security officials face when devices designed to detect radioactive "dirty bombs" instead pick up traces of radioactive substances in patients who have recently undergone cardiac-stress tests or other diagnostic procedures that use medical isotopes. According to the Society of Nuclear Medicine, each year providers perform some 16 million radioactive diagnostic-imaging procedures, which involve injecting patients with a radioactive substance. In addition, thyroid-cancer patients are often treated with radioactive iodine therapy. Radiation detectors used by law enforcement officials across the country regularly pick up such radiation in patients. According to Todd Hoffman, director of interdiction and security for technology for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, one out of every 1,500 Americans is stopped within the country for emitting radiation as a result of a medical procedure. In December, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued a notice to medical professionals in 17 states and to 33 state governments that regulate the use of medical isotopes asking health professionals to provide patients who have received injections of radioactive substances with materials to give to law enforcement officials in the event they are stopped for emitting radiation waves. Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York routinely gives patients notes describing the amount of radiation administered and encourages them to bring the information with them when traveling by airplane. "If (law enforcement officials) have the note, we figure maybe they'll be satisfied," Massimiliano Szulc, director of the hospital's nuclear cardiology operations, said (Windham, Wall Street Journal, 4/21).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.