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Hospital Healthcare Europe

Isotope shortage to delay scans

8 September, 2008  

A “severe shortage” of imaging agents means that hundreds of patients are facing delays to vital scans for cancer and other diseases, experts have warned.

Delays and cancellations will be experienced across the UK in the coming weeks because of a global shortage of medical isotopes used in scans of hearts, bones, kidneys and some cancers. These isotopes are used in more than 80% of routine diagnostic nuclear imaging procedures.

The warning was prompted by data which show that hospitals in Britain are currently receiving less than 50% of expected supplies, with rations expected to drop even further. The problem has been caused by the closure of three of the five global nuclear reactors supplying medical isotopes.

Professor Alan Perkins, honorary secretary at the British Nuclear Medicine Society, said: “The expected number of people who will be affected is quite difficult to determine at the moment. But we are certainly talking about hundreds of patients here.

“The procedures include cardiac blood flow imaging, bone scanning looking for secondary tumours, lymph node detection in breast cancer and renal function, which is commonly done in children.”

He added that professionals should not alter bookings on the basis of waiting times rather than clinical priority.

Copyright PA Business 2008

British Nuclear Medicine Society