Radiation Safety Aspects of Iodine-131 metaiodobenzylguanidine (131I mIBG) Therapy Program Startup

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As a medical center without a pre-existing radiopharmaceutical therapy program, it was a daunting endeavor to implement a 131I metaiodobenzylguanidine (mIBG) high-dose treatment regimen. It took several years of planning with hospital administration, vendors, and Texas Department of Health Radiological Control regulators to establish a viable program. Effective communication between physicians, nursing, nuclear medicine, environmental services, maintenance, and other support staff is essential and paramount for the successful execution and continued sustainability of the mIBG therapy program. Besides providing an effective treatment for patients, an additional goal for the program is to keep radiation exposure As Low As Reasonably Achievable (ALARA) for staff and patient caregivers. As such, start-up presented many training, logistical, and radiation safety challenges. The location of the isolation room and shielding specifications were designed to keep radiation exposure to public access areas to less than 2 microsieverts per hour. Before the first patient was treated the policies and procedures for training, radiation safety, product quality control, and infusion process needed to be developed, tested, and approved by various committees. Furthermore, a similar process was required for developing room set-up, post therapy cleanup, and waste storage procedures. Throughout the maturation process of the program, the departments involved have found that our safety culture has continually improved by the re-enforcement of knowledge and lessons learned, as both the ancillary and treatment staff grew more confident in each other’s ability during more patient treatments are performed. This article describes the process and lessons learned during the time leading up to the startup and early years of the mIBG therapy program.

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