Dirty bomb

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  • Also known as "Radiological Dispersal Device"[1]
  • Consists of radioactive material packaged into non-nuclear (conventional) bomb[1]
    • No nuclear fusion/fission occurs
    • Detonation causes injuries from conventional explosion and also spreads radioactive material, causing radiation injuries and cancer
    • Radioactive material spread locally via blast, and carried more distantly via aerosolized or particulate "plumes"
    • Multiple radioisotopes from various sources (e.g. nuclear fuel waste, medical radiography, etc) could be employed
  • Most injuries and deaths will be caused by blast injuries, not radiation injury[2]
  • Triage of patients by radiation dose received is important and should be coordinated with disaster response officials.

Clinical Features

Differential Diagnosis

Mass casualty incident




  • Most patients require admission.

See Also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Rosoff H, von Winterfeldt D. A risk and economic analysis of dirty bomb attacks on the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Risk Anal. 2007 Jun;27(3):533-46.
  2. Chin FK. Scenario of a dirty bomb in an urban environment and acute management of radiation poisoning and injuries. Singapore Med J. 2007 Oct;48(10):950-7.