Permanent implant of sealed radioactive sources is an effective technique for treating cancer. Typically, the radioactive sources are implanted in and near the disease, depositing dose locally over several months. There may be instances where these patients must undergo unrelated surgical procedures when the radioactive material remains active enough to pose risks. This work explores these risks, discusses strategies to mitigate those risks, and describes a case study for a permanent I-125 prostate brachytherapy implant patient who developed colo-rectal cancer and required surgery 6 months after brachytherapy.
The first consideration is identifying the risk from unwarranted radiation to the patient and staff before, during, and after the surgical procedure. The second is identifying the risk the surgical procedure may have on the efficacy of the brachytherapy implant. Finally, there are considerations for controlling for radioactive substances from a regulatory perspective. After these risks are defined, strategies to mitigate those risks are considered. These strategies may include applying the concepts of ALARA, the use of protective equipment and developing a best practice strategy with the operating room team.
We summarize this experience with some guidelines: If the surgical procedure is near (ex: 5 cm) of the implant; and, the surgical intervention may dislodge radioisotopes enough to compromise treatment or introduces radiation safety risks; and, the radioisotope has not sufficiently decayed to background levels; and, the surgery cannot be postponed, then a detailed analysis of risk is advised.