Radiation Injuries - Treatment

Patients who have received more than about 10 Sv of radiation are unlikely to survive. No treatment is available for people in this group.

Patients who receive very low doses of IR are most likely to develop some form of cancer. When the cancer has developed, it is treated by the techniques usually used for cancers, such as chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery.

Patients who are exposed to about 1 to 6 Sv can benefit from medical treatment. One step usually involves the use of antibiotics to protect the patient against infection. The patient may also require a blood transfusion. In some cases, superficial damage to the skin can be treated with surgery. The damaged portion of skin is removed and replaced with a skin graft.

Alternative Treatment

There is much current interest in helpful chemicals called "free radical scavengers." It is not yet known how they work, but studies strongly suggest that diets full of free radical scavengers are beneficial. Free radical scavengers are also called antioxidants and include beta-carotene, vitamins E and C, and selenium. Beta-carotene is present in yellow and orange fruits and vegetables. Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits such as oranges.

Nuclear power plants are normally constructed with very high levels of safety in mind and there is little or no evidence that humans are at risk as the result of the normal operation of a nuclear power plant. When damage occurs at the plant, however, the situation changes dramatically.

One such accident occurred in April 26, 1986, at the Chernobyl Plant outside Kiev in Ukraine in 1986. This was the most serious accident at a nuclear plant that the world has seen so far. The accident occured when an improperly conducted experiment in one of the reactors caused an explosion. The explosion blew off the top of the reactor, releasing 100 million curies of radionuclides into the atmosphere. More than thirty people who were at the site of the reactor when it exploded died immediately or shortly after the accident.

An area around the site with a 30-mile radius was evacuated. Since the accident doctors have found a striking increase of thyroid cancer among people, especially children, living in contaminated regions in Ukraine and Belarus.

Traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture, and herbal medicines may help in recovery from radiation injuries.

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