Database of radiological incidents and related events--Johnston's Archive

Honolulu radiotherapy accident, 1990

compiled by Wm. Robert Johnston
last modified 15 September 2006

Date: 19 June 1990

Location: Honolulu, Hawaii, USA

Type of event: radioiodine exposure to infant through breastfeeding


A female patient from the Pacific island of Truk in Micronesia was being treated at Tripler Army Medical Center, Honolulu, for a tumor in the thyroid. The administering physician was not aware the woman was nursing her 18-day-old daughter; this was attributable to a communication breakdown between the diagnosing physician in Guam and the physician administering treatment in Hawaii, failure of Tipler staff to have the patient complete an appropriate questionnaire, and failure of the patient to report she was breastfeeding. On 19 June the patient received a 5 mCi oral iodine-131 treatment. About 12 hours after treatment the patient resumed breastfeeding of the infant. During followup on 21 June the physician identified iodine-131 uptake in the breasts and recognized the risk to the infant. The baby was brought in and found to have significant thyroid contamination; estimated dose to the infant's thyroid was 30,000 rads with a whole-body dose of 17 rads. The infant was expected to lose the thyroid but not suffer other injury.

Consequences: 1 injury.


© 2006 by Wm. Robert Johnston.
Last modified 15 September 2006.
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