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Open Access Review

Acute radiation syndrome caused by accidental radiation exposure - therapeutic principles

Harald Dörr* and Viktor Meineke

Author Affiliations

Bundeswehr Institute of Radiobiology, affiliated to the University of Ulm, Neuherbergstr. 11, 80937 Munich, Germany

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BMC Medicine 2011, 9:126  doi:10.1186/1741-7015-9-126

Published: 25 November 2011

Abstract

Fortunately radiation accidents are infrequent occurrences, but since they have the potential of large scale events like the nuclear accidents of Chernobyl and Fukushima, preparatory planning of the medical management of radiation accident victims is very important. Radiation accidents can result in different types of radiation exposure for which the diagnostic and therapeutic measures, as well as the outcomes, differ. The clinical course of acute radiation syndrome depends on the absorbed radiation dose and its distribution. Multi-organ-involvement and multi-organ-failure need be taken into account. The most vulnerable organ system to radiation exposure is the hematopoietic system. In addition to hematopoietic syndrome, radiation induced damage to the skin plays an important role in diagnostics and the treatment of radiation accident victims. The most important therapeutic principles with special reference to hematopoietic syndrome and cutaneous radiation syndrome are reviewed.