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Health Phys. 1984 Mar;46(3):617-25.

Shielding hospital rooms for brachytherapy patients: design, regulatory and cost/benefit factors.


The current regulations of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) normally require limitation of radiation exposure in any part of unrestricted occupied areas to 2 mrem in any one hour and to 100 mrem in 7 days. To meet these limits when patients are treated therapeutically with radioactive materials, it is advisable to designate specific rooms in a hospital and often necessary to incorporate substantial costly shielding into one or more walls and the room door. Plans have been formulated for shielding existing hospital rooms housing brachytherapy patients receiving 192Ir and 137Cs therapy in order to meet the above NRC requirements for adjacent corridors and rooms. Typical shielding thicknesses required are 4-6 in. of concrete for certain walls and 1/4 in. of lead in the doors. Shielding costs are approx. $6000 per room for one shielded wall and a shielded door. Applying recent estimates of the cancer risk from low-level gamma radiation, the cost of shielding per cancer fatality averted has been estimated to range from $1.8 million to $10.9 million. Cost/benefit comparisons with many other life-saving activities suggest that these costs and the application of the 2 mrem/hr limit which necessitated them are not justified.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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