Nuclear/radiological terrorism: emergency department management of radiation casualties

J Emerg Med. 2007 Jan;32(1):71-85. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2006.05.034.


Recent world events have increased concern that hospitals must be prepared for radiological emergencies. Emergency departments (EDs) must be ready to treat patients suffering from injuries in combination with radiation exposure or contamination with radioactive material. Every hospital should have a Radiological Emergency Medical Response Plan, tested through periodic drills, which will allow effective handling of contaminated and injured patients. Treatment of life-threatening or severe traumatic injuries must take priority over radiation-related issues. The risk to ED staff from radioactive contamination is minimal if universal precautions are used. The likelihood of significant radiation exposure to staff under most circumstances is small. Educating medical staff on the magnitude of the radiological hazards allows them to promptly and confidently provide the necessary patient care. Measures must be taken to prevent the "worried well" and uninjured people with radioactive contamination from overwhelming the ED.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Disaster Planning / organization & administration*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Nuclear Warfare*
  • Occupational Exposure / prevention & control
  • Radiation Dosage
  • Radiation Injuries / therapy
  • Radioactive Hazard Release*
  • Terrorism*
  • Universal Precautions