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Ann Emerg Med. 2005 Jun;45(6):643-52.

Medical treatment of radiological casualties: current concepts.

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University of California at Irvine, Orange, CA, USA.


The threat of radiologic or nuclear terrorism is increasing, yet many physicians are unfamiliar with basic treatment principles for radiologic casualties. Patients may present for care after a covert radiation exposure, requiring an elevated level of suspicion by the physician. Traditional medical and surgical triage criteria should always take precedence over radiation exposure management or decontamination. External contamination from a radioactive cloud is easily evaluated using a simple Geiger-Muller counter and decontamination accomplished by prompt removal of clothing and traditional showering. Management of surgical conditions in the presence of persistent radioactive contamination should be dealt with in a conventional manner with health physics guidance. To be most effective in the medical management of a terrorist event involving high-level radiation, physicians should understand basic manifestations of the acute radiation syndrome, the available medical countermeasures, and the psychosocial implications of radiation incidents. Health policy considerations include stockpiling strategies, effective use of risk communications, and decisionmaking for shelter-in-place versus evacuation after a radiologic incident.

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