Isotope Shortage Leads to Canceled Nuclear Medicine Exams
December 10, 2007
The extended shut down of a Canadian nuclear reactor, which supplies nearly all of the medical isotopes used for nuclear medicine imaging throughout North America, is impacting the radiology department at Franklin Memorial Hospital (FMH) and at hospitals nationwide.
The planned shutdown of the Ontario nuclear reactor for regulatory upgrades was recently extended into the new year to conduct additional maintenance work. Its impact is a supply of radioactive isotopes that is dwindling daily.
Nuclear medicine imaging uses very small amounts of radioactive materials, which are introduced into the body by injection, swallowing, or inhalation, and later detected by a special camera that works with computers to provide very precise pictures about the area of the body being imaged. The imaging is unique, in that it provides doctors with information about both organ structure and function.
The majority of the nuclear medicine exams used at FMH are to diagnose cardiac problems or to evaluate bones for fracture, infection, arthritis, or tumors.
"Because of the shortage we are postponing appointments for nuclear medicine exams until January in all patients, except those in a critical situation. In some cases, alternative diagnostic procedures, ultrasounds and CT scans, are being used instead of nuclear scans," said Kim Turner, FMH Radiology Director. "Once we have a replenished supply of the isotopes, we will start scheduling these exams 16 hours-a-day in January."
Turner added that some nuclear studies, which use extremely low doses of the isotope, are not impacted by the shortage. These include gastric emptying studies, thyroid, and renal scans.
Franklin Memorial Hospital normally offers nuclear medicine services, Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m.-5 p.m.
For more information, contact the Radiology Department at 779-2370 or 1-800-398-6031, ext. 2370.
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