Determining the Pregnancy Status of Patients Before Diagnostic Nuclear Medicine Procedures: The Australian Experience
Journal of Nuclear Medicine Technology
Ionizing radiation used in diagnostic nuclear medicine procedures has the potential to have biologic effects on a fetus. Nuclear medicine technologists (NMTs) therefore have a responsibility to ensure that they question all patients of childbearing age about their pregnancy status before starting any procedure, to avoid unnecessary fetal irradiation. In Australia, there are no clearly defined practice guidelines to assist NMTs in determining whom to question or how to question their patients.
... n their patients. Methods: Semistructured interviews were conducted with chief NMTs and staff NMTs in 8 nuclear medicine departments in Australia. Questions were based around 5 areas: regulations and policy, fetal radiation exposure, questioning of the patient, difficulties in determining pregnancy status, and the impact of the use of hybrid imaging. Audio files of the interviews were transcribed and coded. Results: Topics were coded into 5 themes: policy and awareness of guidelines, questioning the patient, radiation knowledge, decisions and assumptions made by NMTs, and the use of pregnancy testing. There was a wide variation in practice between and within departments. NMTs demonstrated a lack of knowledge and awareness of the possible biologic effects of radiation. Conclusion: This study identified a need in Australia for nuclear medicine to arrive at a consensus approach to verifying a patient's pregnancy status so that NMTs can successfully question patients about their pregnancy status. Continuing education programs are also required to keep NMTs up to date in their knowledge.