Abstract - This publication aims to assist in the prevention of accidental exposures involving patients undergoing treatment from external beam or solid brachytherapy sources. It does not directly deal with therapy involving unsealed sources. The document is addressed to a diverse audience of professionals directly involved in radiotherapy procedures, hospital administrators, and health and regulatory authorities. The approach adopted is to describe illustrative severe accidents, discuss the causes of these events and contributory factors, summarise the sometimes devastating consequences of these events, and provide recommendations on the prevention of such events. The measures discussed include institutional arrangements, staff training, quality assurance programmes, adequate supervision, clear definition of responsibilities, and prompt reporting.
In many of the accidental exposures described in this report, a single cause cannot be identified. Usually, there was a combination of factors contributing to the accident, e.g., deficient staff training, lack of independent checks, lack of quality control procedures, and absence of overall supervision. Such combinations often point to an overall deficiency in management, allowing patient treatment in the absence of a comprehensive quality assurance programme. Factors common to many accidents are identified and discussed in detail. The use of radiation therapy in the treatment of cancer patients has grown considerably and is likely to continue to increase. Major accidents are rare, but are likely to continue to happen unless awareness is increased. In this report, explicit recommendations on measures to prevent radiotherapy accidents are given with respect to regulations, education, and quality assurance.