Microbiological and radioactive contamination from radioaerosol ventilation scanning: is there a problem?

A Brown, N J Carter, M J O'Doherty

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Radioaerosol lung imaging may result in (a) microbiological contamination of nebulizer circuits (a potential hazard to patients if the circuit is re-used), and (b) radioaerosol contamination of the atmosphere (a hazard to staff, particularly if inhaled, ingested or both). Altogether, 138 circuits were assessed for bacteriological contamination, 93 of which had been used for ventilation perfusion studies and 45 for lung permeability studies in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) positive patients. The circuits used for ventilation/perfusion (V/Q) studies were re-used over a period of 1-5 days. The mouthpiece and Y-piece were changed between patients. The circuits used for permeability studies were changed in toto for each patient. Organisms belonging to normal respiratory flora were isolated from the Y-piece, mouthpiece or both in 9 of 138 cases. An additional case (from one of the HIV-positive patients) demonstrated a growth of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus. We also demonstrated bacteriological growth, most likely of patient origin, in circuit tubing in 11 cases at the end of the first day's use and 9 cases by day 5. None of the circuits used for HIV-positive cases were culture-positive. Airborne radioactive contamination was assessed during radioaerosol inhalation with and without an air extractor device (Nederman) during 40 ventilation studies. The 20 studies with air extraction showed a large decrease in room air contamination. Nebulizer circuits can, and occasionally do, become contaminated with patients' organisms; this represents a potential infection control hazard and therefore re-use is contraindicated. The use of an air extractor will significantly reduce airborne radioaerosol contamination.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)755-60
Number of pages6
JournalNuclear Medicine Communications
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1999


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