Navigation and service

Ionising radiation

Environmental Radioactivity - Medicine - Occupational Radiation Protection - Nuclear Hazards Defence

Ionisierende Strahlung

IAEA International Conference on Radiation Protection in Medicine - "Setting the Scene for the Next Decade"

From 3 to 7 December 2012, the International Conference on Radiation Protection in Medicine was held in Bonn. The Conference was organized by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and hosted by the Government of Germany through the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMU).

An accompanying trade exhibition was organized by BMU on WCCB premises giving manufacturers the opportunity to present their products for radiation protection in medicine.

Protection of patients and medical staff

The health benefits accruing to mankind from the medical use of ionizing radiation, such as X-rays, or from radioactive substances are well recognized. Many countries are nevertheless still lacking access to essential radiation-based health services. However, on the whole the exposure of the global population to ionizing radiation is rising rapidly, nearly exclusively due to medical uses of radiation.

Ionizing radiation in medicine involves the deliberate and direct exposure of humans. There is a strong and continuing need to protect patients from unnecessary and unintended exposure, and also to protect medical staff, in particular, from the high doses incurred.

Protection from unnecessary exposure

Unnecessary exposure of patients can arise

  • from medical procedures that are not justified for a specified objective,
  • from the application of procedures to individuals whose condition does not warrant such intervention, and
  • from medical exposures that are not appropriately optimized for the situation in which they are being used.

There is growing evidence that many medical procedures involving ionizing radiation are being performed with insufficient justification and optimization, which means that a substantial proportion of the effective dose per capita from medical exposures is quite unnecessary exposure. This represents a significant risk for the global population which could be avoided if appropriate measures were taken.

Protection from unintended exposure

Unintended exposure of patients and medical staff can arise from

  • unsafe design or
  • inappropriate use of medical technology.

There have been a number of reports in recent years of accidents in several countries involving the use of ionizing radiation in medicine that caused either an over- or underdose to a large number of patients. Inadequate programmes for staff training and/or quality assurance are important factors contributing to such events.

Focus efforts in radiation protection in medicine

The number of occupationally exposed workers is much higher in medicine than in any other professional field. Individual occupational exposure also varies widely among those involved in medical care. There are certain procedures which can result in medical staff being exposed to substantial radiation doses, and therefore the education of medical professionals in radiation protection issues is of continuing importance.

Recent years have also seen an increased recognition of the importance of communication with patients and patient organizations on medical radiation protection, as well as of the value of openly sharing knowledge on untoward events involving medical radiation sources.

With these issues in mind, and considering current trends and developments, the conference aims to focus efforts in this area for the next decade and to maximize the positive impact of future international work in radiation protection in medicine.

Objectives of the Conference

The conference dealed with aspects of radiation protection related to the use of ionizing radiation and radioactive substances in medicine. The conference had the following objectives, in particular:

  • to indicate gaps in current approaches to radiation protection in medicine;
  • to identify tools for improving radiation protection in medicine;
  • to review advances, challenges and opportunities in the field of radiation protection in medicine;
  • to assess the impact of the International Action Plan for the Radiation Protection of Patients, in order to prepare new international recommendations, taking into account newer developments.

List of Topics

Both academic and practice-based papers that came under the umbrella of the following proposed subjects for the topical sessions were discussed:

  • Diagnostic imaging and optimization;
  • Diagnostic imaging and justification;
  • Radiation protection of patients in interventional procedures;
  • Occupational radiation protection of medical workers;
  • Protecting patients, carers and comforters and the public in nuclear medicine;
  • Patient protection in radiotherapy;
  • Radiation protection of patients in other medical modalities;
  • Medical issues related to radiation accidents;
  • Safety education and training;
  • Patients’ viewpoint on safety and protection;
  • Issues around radiological health screening;
  • Radiation protection of children and pregnant women;
  • Manufacturers’ role in protecting patients;
  • Topics for future research and development.

Bonn Call-for-Action

Referring to the above issues, an overview was provided on the progress, challenges and possibilities of radiation protection in medicine. Gaps in the current concepts of radiation protection were revealed and instruments to improve radiation protection were identified. Under the direction of the conference president Dr. Wolfgang Weiss, an action plan was developed involving measures which, if implemented, could considerably reduce unnecessary and unintended exposures and the resulting risk for the public. For the action plan, the results of the conference were subsumed under ten fields of action aimed at a substantial improvement of radiation protection in medicine.

Conference Proceedings

The IAEA has published the conference proceedings. A printed version may be ordered (for a fee), the PDF version is available for free download.

State of 2017.05.12

How do you rate this article?

© Bundesamt für Strahlenschutz