Objective: The use of PET in Australia has grown rapidly. We conducted a prospective study of the radiation exposure of technologists working in PET and evaluated the occupational radiation dose after implementation of strategies to lower exposure.
Methods: Radiation doses measured by thermoluminescent dosimeters over a 2-y period were reviewed both for technologists working in PET and for technologists working in general nuclear medicine in a busy academic nuclear medicine department. The separate components of the procedures for dose administration and patient monitoring were assessed to identify the areas contributing the most to the dose received. The impact on dose of implementing portable 511-keV syringe shields (primary shields) and larger trolley-mounted shields (secondary shields) was also compared with initial results using no shield.
Results: We found that the radiation exposure of PET technologists was higher than that of technologists performing general nuclear medicine studies, with doses averaging 771 +/- 147 and 524 +/- 123 microSv per quarter, respectively (P = 0.01). The estimated dose per PET procedure was 4.1 microSv (11 nSv/MBq). Injection of 18F-FDG contributed the most to radiation exposure. The 511-keV syringe shield reduced the average dose per injection from 2.5 to 1.4 microSv (P < 0.001). For the longer period of dose transportation and injection, the additional use of the secondary shield resulted in a significantly lower dose of radiation than did use of the primary shield alone or no shield (1.9 vs. 3.6 microSv [P = 0.01] and 3.4 microSv [P = 0.03], respectively).
Conclusion: The radiation doses currently received by technologists working in PET are within accepted occupational health guidelines, but improved shielding can further reduce the dose.