The accurate measurement of radiation for medical purposes is vital to ensure the safety of patients and effectiveness of procedures.
Last week, over 400 experts from 78 countries and 18 international and professional organizations exchanged knowledge on advances in practices and standards in radiation dosimetry, radiation medicine and radiation protection over the last decade. The International Symposium on Standards, Applications and Quality Assurance in Medical Radiation Dosimetry took place in Vienna from 18 to 21 June.
Dosimetry – the science of measuring or calculating radiation doses – underpins the optimal use of radiation in medicine.
“Accurate measurements in radiation dosimetry are vital in the medical use of radiation, as well as to assure the safety of patients, radiation workers and members of the public in a wide range of medical and industrial applications,” said Najat Mokhtar, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Sciences and Applications. “This symposium provided an opportunity for hospital practitioners and researchers to meet with scientists from standards laboratories, to review the entire dosimetry chain and exchange ideas on new developments in the field.”
During the week, symposium participants, including dosimetrists, medical physicists, radiation metrologists and other scientists in medical institutions, research centres, universities and standards laboratories, held discussions on areas in which the standardization of dosimetry has improved in recent years. Other topics discussed included the developments in dosimetry for advanced radiotherapy techniques and technologies used for the treatment of cancer, diagnostic radiology imaging, which uses radiation to identify and monitor various diseases, therapeutic nuclear medicine and new dosimetry audit methodologies. The symposium consisted of educational courses, a series of topical sessions, oral and poster presentations and round-table discussions.
“There are very few other international meetings in which scientists from primary and secondary standards dosimetry laboratories can engage with clinical medical physicists on the standards that are being developed to support traceable and reliable dosimetry, and to identify cross-cutting research and collaboration opportunities in this field,” said Debbie van der Merwe, Head of the IAEA’s Dosimetry and Medical Radiation Physics Section and Scientific Secretary of the symposium.
Celebrating the IAEA/WHO radiotherapy dosimetry audit service
The symposium also marked the 50-year anniversary of the IAEA/World Health Organization’s dosimetry audit service for radiotherapy. Since 1969, the IAEA dosimetry laboratory has audited over 2300 radiotherapy centres in 135 countries. It provides an independent review of the reference dosimetry in cancer clinics, by confirming the actual output of the radiotherapy machines.
“Over the years, the audits have contributed to dosimetry practice and accuracy of dose measurements,” said May Abdel-Wahab, Director of the IAEA’s Division of Human Health.
“Audits provide dependable support to one of the basic tenants of quality and safety in medical practice – delivering the right dose. They improve consistency, affecting outcomes of cancer patients treated with radiotherapy. It has an impact on the ground.”
Catharine Clark, Principal Research Scientist at the National Physical Laboratory and Consultant Clinical Scientist at the Royal Surrey County Hospital in the United Kingdom, highlighted the importance of dosimetry audits in maintaining and improving standards. “In some ways, they’re even more important than ever, because the increasing ability to deliver accurate and sculpted doses means that errors in dosimetry could have an even bigger impact,” she said.