Patients will face delays in getting diagnostic scans due to severe shortage of imaging agents

September 6, 2008

A global shortage of medical isotopes* used in over 80% of routine diagnostic nuclear imaging procedures such as heart imaging, bone scans and some cancer detection procedures, will cause delays and cancellations to diagnostic examinations across the UK and Europe in the next few weeks, predict experts on bmj.com today.

UK hospitals are receiving less than 50% of expected supplies and rations are expected to drop still further in the coming weeks, write Alan Perkins and colleagues from the British Nuclear Medicine Society.

According to the European Association of Nuclear Medicine European hospitals are already limited to only 20��% of normal nuclear medical activities.

The authors warn that if NHS managers in the UK aim to meet the six-week target for diagnostic waiting times by altering bookings on the basis of waiting times rather than clinical priority, some patients may receive sub-optimal treatment.

Currently Europe's three isotope production reactors are all shut down because of maintenance issues and European producers only have enough radioisotopes to last until September 8.

In addition, other reactors in Canada and South Africa have also been temporarily closed, leaving just the Australian reactor which, according to the authors, does not have enough potential to significantly increase supply to the world market.

The closure of the Canadian reactor for two months in 2007 for safety reasons affected over 50 000 patient examinations in the US.

The authors point out that this is not just a short term emergency. Most of the commercial reactors are around 40 years old and new production capacity is urgently needed to meet the increasing demands of isotopes for research, diagnosis and treatment.

They warn that urgent global investment in new reactor facilities is essential or these problems will continue and it will be the patients that suffer.

Source: British Medical Journal

Explore further: Lab confirms new commercial method for producing medical isotope

Related Stories

Scientists help avert a nuclear medicine meltdown

January 9, 2015

University of British Columbia scientists have shown that small cyclotrons – particle accelerators the size of an SUV – can replace hulking nuclear power plants as the country's main source of medical isotopes, the radioactive ...

Synthetic biologists break new ground in medicine, energy

March 25, 2014

With such ambitious goals as helping cure cancer and eradicating pervasive disease, some of the most talented scientists in the country from the emerging field of synthetic biology are breaking new ground at Northwestern ...

Recommended for you

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...

Quantum Theory May Explain Wishful Thinking

April 14, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Humans don’t always make the most rational decisions. As studies have shown, even when logic and reasoning point in one direction, sometimes we chose the opposite route, motivated by personal bias or simply ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.