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Acute Radiation Syndrome

Stuart C. Finch, MD
JAMA. 1987;258(5):664-667. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03400050106037.
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THE ATOMIC bomb detonations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 abruptly awakened the world to the realities of the nuclear age. Radiologists, radiation physicists, and some physicians were aware of the sickness that frequently accompanied the use of x-ray therapy, but few knew the constellation of devastating events that may occur after whole-body exposure to excessive amounts of ionizing radiation. Although the majority of acute deaths in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were due to burns and other forms of physical trauma, at least a third of the victims probably died of radiation sickness, with many more developing varying degrees of acute systemic illness secondary to radiation exposure. The Japanese quickly recognized the peculiar effects that resulted from atomic bomb exposure, but not until observations were reported in the medical literature by several astute American military physicians did the acute radiation syndrome become known throughout the scientific world.



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