Externally Irradiated Patients

Several general concepts are essential for understanding the radiation injury resulting from exposure to an external source:

1. An acute dose of radiation results in more biological damage than the same radiation dose delivered over a more protracted period of time.

2. Biological injury from radiation occurs at the time of exposure and the clinical signs and symptoms manifest over time.

3. The elapsed time from exposure to the onset of symptoms is inversely related to the radiation dose received.

4. Exposure to penetrating types of radiation (gamma, x-ray, and neutron) results in a whole-body dose. Acute high-level irradiation to a significant portion of the body may result in acute radiation syndrome. Partial-body irradiation may result in local radiation injury.

5. Nonpenetrating types of radiation, alpha and beta, do not deliver a whole-body dose.

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