[ RadSafe ] Isotope shortage affects patients

joseroze at netvision.net.il joseroze at netvision.net.il
Thu Dec 6 06:38:10 CST 2007

Dear colleagues,
I am in Montreal for two weeks, and I found today the following press news.
Probably colleague from Canada could comment

Jose Julio Rozental
joseroze at netvision.net.il

Latest from Gazette topic 3


Isotope shortage affects patients
Delays in diagnostic medical imaging tests. MUHC reduced to treating only
most urgent cases DERFEL
AARON, The Gazette
Published: 4 hours ago
Hundreds of cardiac, cancer and kidney patients in Montreal - and thousands
more across North America - face delays in diagnostic tests because of a
shortage of radioisotopes used in medical imaging.
The problem has been traced to the Chalk River, Ont., nuclear reactor,
which produces most of the world's supply of isotopes for medical
applications. The facility, run by Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., was shut
for repairs two weeks ago, but the work is expected to take another 10 days
to complete, straining the limited supply of isotopes even more.
At the McGill University Health Centre, an average of 80 patients a day are
injected with the isotope Technetium-99m for medical imaging. The isotope
is not used for treatment.
The MUHC is being rationed a small supply from its distributor,
Bristol-Myers Squibb, that is good enough for about a dozen patients a day.
Patients with urgent and semi-urgent cases are getting the diagnostic tests
on time, said Robert Lisbona, chief of nuclear medicine at the MUHC.
"We want to make sure patients don't panic," Lisbona said. "One way or the
other, we'll look after them."
The isotope is injected into a patient as a tracer to detect abnormalities
in organ function. The images are captured by what's known as a gamma
Medical imaging involving X-rays, CT scans, MRI scans and PET scans are not
affected, Lisbona emphasized.
"We monitor many patients every three months who are not deemed urgent," he
said. "So if they wait another two weeks, it won't make a difference.
"But those patients who need a test done because we think they will have to
undergo, say, chemotherapy, they get the tests done right away."
The isotope shortage has not affected any patients at the Centre
hospitalier de l'université de Montréal. That's because the CHUM gets its
isotopes from two suppliers.
"We're still managing well," said Nathalie Forque, the CHUM's
communications officer. "Other hospitals have just one supplier."
The Chalk River reactor produces the isotopes, which are quickly delivered
to a facility in Ottawa for processing. Within hours, the product is flown
to pharmaceutical companies around the world for final processing and
Since the isotopes have a short half-life (the time it takes to be reduced
to half its strength), the pharmaceutical-grade Technetium-99m must be used
within three days of receipt at a hospital.
"This is the first time this has happened in 35 years," Lisbona said.
"Unfortunately, it takes a crisis to realize we need to find an alternative
supply of the isotopes."
aderfel at thegazette.canwest.com

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