3 August 2023

ARPANSA has updated Australia’s nuclear medicine diagnostic reference levels to support optimised use of radiation in medical diagnosis and treatment.

The reference levels were updated in July 2023 based on data from 120 medical imaging centres.

ARPANSA’s Medical Imaging Director, Dr Peter Thomas, says the update promotes nationally consistent radiation doses.

‘Medical imaging facilities across the country can compare their doses to the nuclear medicine diagnostic reference levels to make sure that radiation exposure is not too high or too low for a specified procedure,’ Dr Thomas said.

‘The update to these benchmarks promotes effective diagnosis of disease and injury across Australia.  

‘There are close to 500,000 nuclear medicine scans performed annually – so it’s important that these benchmarks exist to minimise harm from overexposing patients to radiation.'  

In 2022, there were 300,000 general nuclear medicine scans and a further 170,000 Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans claimed on Medicare. Supporting consistent application of nuclear medicine helps to promote patient safety and encourage continuous improvement in medical practice.

The 2023 update is the first since the national nuclear medicine diagnostic reference levels were introduced by ARPANSA in 2017. The updates to the diagnostic reference levels reflect nuclear medicine’s growth over the last six years including the addition of new PET procedures to the Medicare Benefit Schedule.

Nuclear medicine uses small amounts of radioactive materials inside the body for the diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions and diseases.

‘Nuclear medicine scans can produce images that show how your organs work, whereas X-rays and CT scans produce images that look at the structure of the body,’ Dr Thomas said.

ARPANSA’s diagnostic reference levels provide valuable support to medical facilities and patients as part of our work to protect Australians from the harmful effects of radiation.

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