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Radiation Overdoses Linked to Recalled CardioGen-82 PET Scan Device

Filed September 23rd, 2011 Julie Anne Fidler

A federal safety investigation was prompted this summer by two heart patients who managed to set off security scanners at the U.S. border with lingering radiation in their bodies left over from previous nuclear testing they had undergone.

One Sarasota, Fla., patient was stranded in Canada back in June as investigators tried to figure out why the patient was setting off radiation detectors. The Sarasota patient and a Nevada patient were detained by U.S. Customs officials about the same time and transported to a federal nuclear lab in in Oak Ridge, Tenn., for more tests. An international traveler was also picked up by radiation scanners after the investigation was underway. Both the Sarasota patient and the international traveler had undergone nuclear testing at the same Sarasota facility.

The radiation overdose was traced back to a machine, the CardioGen-82, that produces a radioactive chemical used to monitor blood flow through the heart.

Radiation is only supposed to stay in the body for a day or two, but in this case of these three patients and an unknown number of others, the radioactive element strontium was detectable for months. The generator manufacturer voluntarily recalled the machines in July.

Experts do not believe the patients absorbed enough radiation to harm them, but Enrique Urrutia, a professor of radiology and nuclear medicine at the University of South Florida, says that patients receiving any kind of radiation should get documentation from their doctor if they plan to travel.

The CardioGen-82 device was recalled by Bracco Diagnostics in July

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