Specialist centre at KI delivers expertise in radiation emergency medicine

Society’s preparedness to deal with crises and disasters needs to be constantly developed and adapted to changes in the world around us. As preparedness depends on up-to-date medical expertise, the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare has established a number of knowledge and research centres for crisis preparedness around the country, located at universities, authorities or equivalent with links to clinical activities.

The Department of Medicine Solna hosts the Swedish Radiation Emergency Medicine Centre (KcRN). The centre’s mission is to conduct external monitoring and analyses of radiation-related events, provide training in the medical management of such events, and provide expert advice and data to the National Board of Health and Welfare.

The contract was recently renewed and expanded for a further three years. The agreement was signed against a backdrop of increasing international political tensions and radiological threats. In particular, the war in Ukraine has induced fears of nuclear plant emergencies and even of a possible use of so-called tactical nuclear weapons.

“Acute accidents, attacks and wars involving ionizing radiation, so-called radio-nuclear (RN) events, are thankfully still rare, but when they do occur the consequences can be catastrophic”, says Leif Stenke at KcRN.

Large whole-body doses of ionizing radiation affect the whole person, but it is mainly damage to the bone marrow and the blood that is life-threatening. This is the background to why hematologists and oncologists form the backbone of KcRN.

“By systematically gathering and disseminating medical knowledge on the diagnosis and treatment of injuries related to radiation exposure, we can improve our ability to manage future RN events within the healthcare system. MedS is now actively contributing to this development”, continues Leif Stenke.

More about KcRN

Personnel, participating part-time in parallel with clinical/research commitments: Leif Stenke, professor of hematology at MedS and senior physician at ME Hematology at Karolinska University Hospital, is heading the centre together with Christel Hedman, affiliated researcher at the Department of Molecular Medicine and Surgery and senior physician in oncology at Stockholm Sjukhem.

The centre also includes one more hematologist, two oncologists and two medical physicists specializing in nuclear medicine – all of whom have PhDs from and are still based at KI. Affiliated to the centre is also the radiation protection expert Jack Valentin, associate professor of genetics, formerly at the Swedish Radiation Protection Institute and secretary of the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) in London.

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