Patient self-attenuation and technologist dose in positron emission tomography

Med Phys. 2005 Apr;32(4):861-5. doi: 10.1118/1.1869552.


Positron emission tomography (PET), with 511-keV radiation and long patient-uptake times, presents unique radiation safety concerns. This two-part study considers aspects of PET radiation safety as they relate to PET suite design, dose to the public, and technologist occupational dose. In the first part of the study, the self-attenuation of radiation by patients' bodies was quantified. The radiation exposure was measured at three positions from 64 patients injected with fluorine-18 fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) during the uptake period. Compared with an in vitro control used as a point source, a significant decrease in exposure (>40% at 1 m) was observed due to nonuniform distribution of FDG and attenuation within the patients. The attenuation data are consistent with results from simulations [M. E. Phelps, "Comments and Perspectives," J. Nucl. Med. 45, 1601 (2004)] that treat the body as a uniform, water-filled cylinder. As distance is often the principal source of protection for 511-keV radiation, the considerable self-attenuation may allow for more compact PET suites. However, despite high patient self-attenuation, shielding, and standard precautionary measures, PET technologist occupational doses can remain quite high (approximately 12 mSv/year). The second part of this study tracked the daily dose received by PET technologists. Close technologist-patient interaction both during and following FDG administration, as much as 20 min/study, contribute to the high doses and point to the need for a more innovative approach to radiation protection for PET technologists.

MeSH terms

  • Allied Health Personnel
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18 / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Occupational Exposure
  • Positron-Emission Tomography / methods*
  • Probability
  • Radiation Dosage
  • Radiation Monitoring
  • Radiation Protection
  • Radiometry / methods*
  • Radiopharmaceuticals / pharmacology*
  • Risk
  • Technology, Radiologic
  • Time Factors
  • Whole-Body Counting


  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18