United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Loss of an Iridium-192 Source and Therapy Misadministration at Indiana Regional Cancer Center Indiana, Pennsylvania, on November 16, 1992 (NUREG-1480)

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Publication Information

Manuscript Completed: February 1993
Date Published: February 1993

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Washington, DC 20555-0001

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Abstract

On December 1, 1992, the Indiana Regional Cancer Center reported to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) Region I that they believed a 1.37 E+ 11 becquerel (3. 7-curie) iridium-192 source from their Omnitron 2000 high dose rate remote brachytherapy afterloader had been found at a biohazard waste transfer station in Carnegie, Pennsylvania. After notifying the NRC, this cancer center, one of several operated by the licensee, Oncology Services Corporation, retrieved the source, and Region I dispatched an inspector and a supervisor to investigate the event. The source was first detected when it triggered radiation alarms at a waste incinerator facility in Warren, Ohio. The licensee informed the NRC that the source wire had apparently broken during treatment of a patient on November 16, 1992, leaving the source in the patient. On the basis of the seriousness of the incident, the NRC elevated its response to an Incident Investigation. The Incident Investigation Team initiated its investigation on December 3, 1992. The investigation team concluded that the patient received a serious misadministration and died on November 21 , 1992, and that over 90 individuals were exposed to radiation from November 16 to December 1, 1992. In a press release dated January 26, 1993, the Indiana County Coroner stated that the cause of death listed in the official autopsy report was "Acute Radiational Exposure and Consequences Thereof." An almost identical source wire failure occurred with an afterloader in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on December 7, 1992, but with minimal radiological consequences. This incident was included in the investigation. This report discusses the Omnitron 2000 high dose rate afterloader source-wire failure, the reasons why the failure was not detected by Indiana Regional Cancer Center, the potential consequences to the patient, the estimated radiological doses to workers and the public, and regulatory aspects associated with this incident.

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