Patient release criteria following radioactive iodine-131 treatment in the light of international practice: where does South Africa fit in?

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The release from hospital of patients treated with radioactive iodine-131 (131I) remains a controversial issue as a result of the range of guidelines implemented by national regulatory bodies responsible for radiation protection in various countries worldwide. The aim of this study was to review and analyse the literature on patient release criteria (PRC) applied internationally in an attempt to achieve a justifiable approach to setting equivalent criteria in South Africa. In 2016, the South African Department of Health, Directorate: Radiation Control added conditions (numbers 50 and 90), to licences to use radioactive nuclides. These conditions state that patients must be hospitalized when the dose rate at 1 m is above 25 μSv/h, or more than 555 MBq of iodine-131 was administered to the patient. However, these criteria do not consider patients’ socioeconomic conditions. A literature survey was carried out of articles detailing PRC from high-income countries as well as those in the middle-income and lower-income groups. Socioeconomic conditions within countries were determined using the International Monetary Fund lists of gross domestic product. The results from the literature have shown that in setting PRC, several countries have considered the socioeconomic conditions prevailing in their countries to achieve harmony between public protection and cost associated with hospitalization. The South African authority conditions must be seen in the context of the approach followed by other countries. Considering the international context, a justifiable, and potentially implementable, guideline or policy for improving individualized and more caring patient management is advocated.

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