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NRI: Patient and Physician Information

Patient Information

How do I know if I was exposed?

An estimated 500,000 to 2 million individuals, mostly children, were treated with NRI. Do you recall lying down on a table, perhaps having your nose sprayed, followed by your doctor removing a rod from a cylindrical container, inserting it up your nasal passage, and leaving it in place for 5 to 15 minutes? (See illustrations accompanying the Saturday Evening Post article.)

If you do not recall the above situation but do remember having adenoid and or hearing problems as a child, you may want to ask any family members or your childhood doctor if they recall you receiving such a treatment.

If I was exposed, what should I do?

Since studies are inconclusive, but NRI may confer a modest increased risk, the best thing for people who were treated to do is notify their doctor. Your doctor may wish to conduct a thorough head and neck examination at your next check-up.


Public Law 105-368 enacted in November 1998 makes the VA's Ionizing Radiation program available to veterans who received radium treatments while they were in the military. Questions about this can be answered by a Veterans Benefits Counselor at local VA hospitals or the VA Regional Offices.

For further information about veterans benefits call: 1-800-827-1000

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Physician Information

If I have a patient who received NRI, what should I do?

  • Symptomatic Patients:

    A thorough medical history should be taken from patients with head or neck complaints, including whether they recall being given NRI or any other form of radiation therapy to the head and neck, particularly during childhood. A positive history for NRI or other radiation should be followed by a complete work-up to arrive at a diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan. For more information about NRI and head and neck exams, a videotape specifically targeted for physician education about NRI can be ordered from the Public Health Foundation at the following number:

    Summary of NRI Video

  • Asymptomatic Patients:

    CDC does not recommend screening for persons without symptoms who received NRI. However, physicians may consider performing thorough head and neck examinations of patients with a history of NRI treatments at their next regular check-up.

    Additional information can be requested by e-mail.

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Nasopharyngeal Radium Irradiation: Current Medical Issues

September 1996
34 minutes

Between 1940 and the mid 1960's, nasopharyngeal radium irradiation was used to treat children with chronic ear infections and hearing loss, as well as World War II submariners and aviators with otic barotrauma. NRI was a fairly common medical treatment throughout the U.S. and other countries such as Canada, France, and the Netherlands. An estimated 500,000 to 2,000,000 people were given the treatment. The CDC has produced a videotape designed to educate health care professionals about the emerging medical problems which may result from this former radiation therapy. Physicians will learn to recognize the symptoms and problems which may develop, and will be informed about circumstances requiring referral. However, anyone who is interested in NRI can order the video. It should be noted that some contents of the video are technical.

  • This program presents information on the following topics:
  • Historical background
  • Possible effects on patients who received this treatment
  • Veterans issues
  • Patient history, and head and neck exam

This VHS video is an edited version of a satellite videoconference aired in September 1996.

To order the video call the Public Health Foundation:

Target Audience: Physicians in general practice, family practice, internal medicine, otolaryngology, radiology, and nuclear medicine, nurse practitioners and physician assistants in the same fields.

Continuing Education Units: .2
Continuing Medical Education Credits: 2

Faculty Presenters:

Richard Jackson, MD, MPH, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Susan Mather, MD, MPH, Department of Veterans Affairs
Anne Mellinger-Birdsong, MD, MPH, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Douglas Ross, MD, Yale University
Donald Proctor, MD, Johns Hopkins University
Henry Royal, MD, Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology, Washington University
Dale Sandler, PhD, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
Capt. Steven R. Warlick, MD, Portsmouth Naval Medical Center

This training program was produced in collaboration with the following partners:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Radiation Studies Branch
Division of Environmental Hazards and Health Effects
National Center for Environmental Health

Division of Media and Training Services
Public Health Practice Program Office

Department of Veterans Affairs

Department of Defense

Association of State and Territorial Health Officials

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