The clinical use of positron emission tomography (PET) is expanding rapidly in most European countries. It is likely therefore that patients receiving the tracer fluorine-18 fluorodeoxyglucose (18FDG) will be discharged to come into contact with family members, members of the public and ward staff. There are few direct measurements on which to base any recommendations with regard to radiation protection, and so we have measured the dose rates from patients undergoing clinical PET examinations in our centre. Seventy-five patients who underwent whole-body and brain 18FDG PET examinations were studied. Dose rates were measured at 0.1, 0.5, 1.0 and 2.0 m from the mid thorax on leaving the department. The median administered activity was 323 MBq with a 95th percentile value of 360 MBq. The median dose rates measured at the four distances were 90.0, 35.0, 14.0 and 5.0 microSv h-1 (the median dose rates per unit administered activity at 2 h post injection were 0.31, 0.11, 0.04 and 0.02 microSv h-1 MBq-1). The corresponding 95th percentile values were 174.0, 69.0, 29.0 and 7.5 microSv h-1 (0.43, 0.2, 0.08 and 0.03 microSv h-1 MBq-1). A number of social situations were modelled and an annual dose limit of 1 mSv was used to determine whether restrictive behavioural advice was required. In the case of nursing staff on wards a value of 6 mSv was regarded as the annual limit, which translates to a daily limit of approximately 24 microSv. There is no need for restrictive advice for patients travelling by public or private transport when they leave the department 2 h after the administration of 18FDG. Similarly, there is no need for restrictive advice with regard to their contact with partners, work colleagues or children of any age, although it should be stressed that children should not accompany the patient to the scanning department. The only possible area of concern is in an oncology ward, where patients may be regularly referred for PET investigations and other high activity radionuclide studies and are partially helpless. Even in this area, however, it is unlikely that a nurse would receive a daily dose of more than 24 microSv. We conclude that there is no need for restrictive advice for patients undergoing 18FDG PET studies given the current administered activities.