Acute Radiation Syndrome (ARS) -
Also Known as Radiation Sickness

  • People exposed to radiation will develop ARS only if all the following are true:
    • The radiation dose was high
    • The radiation was penetrating (i.e., able to reach internal organs, as with certain x-rays or gamma rays)
    • The person's entire body, or most of it, received the dose
    • The radiation was received in a short time, usually within minutes, hours or sometimes days if the dose is high enough.
  • Clinical severity of the four ARS subsyndromes will vary with dose and host factors:
    • Hematopoietic
    • Gastrointestinal
    • Cutaneous
    • Neurovascular
  • The four stages of ARS:
    • Prodromal
    • Latent
    • Manifest Illness (Critical Phase)
    • Recovery or Death
  • High dose whole body radiation exposure will also produce clinically detectable effects in the lung, liver and kidneys, among other organs. Usually, injury to these organs is detected well after those from the standard four ARS subsyndromes.
    • Individuals would have to survive the earlier-onset injuries to blood, the GI tract, skin and neurovascular system, for these to become clinically life-threatening.
    • Immune dysfunction, as part of hematopoetic system injury, is also clinically important, if the dose from exposure is high enough.

Adapted from Acute Radiation Syndrome (HHS/CDC)

See also: REMM Acute Radiation Syndrome (ARS)

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