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Shortage of Nuclear Imaging Agents May Delay Scans

Nuclear medicine services under threat from global shortage of medical isotopes

MONDAY, Sept. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Heart imaging, bone scans and some cancer detection tests may be subject to delays or even cancellation due to a global shortage of medical isotopes, according to a letter and article published online Sept. 5 in BMJ.

Alan Perkins and colleagues at the British Nuclear Medicine Society, London. U.K., write that there is a severe shortage of molybdenum-99, a fission product of uranium-235 used for more than 80 percent of diagnostic nuclear medicine investigations, and that supplies will be disrupted over the next few weeks in the U.K., where hospitals are receiving only 50 percent of expected supply, and other countries.

The shortage is the result of a shut-down of all three of Europe's isotope production reactors, one due to safety concerns and the other two for routine maintenance and inspection. The closures coincide with the shutdown at Canada's National Research Universal reactor due to an electrical storm.

"Supplies will be further reduced before they are reinstated. Industry and service providers are scheduling the supplies against clinical priorities. Although the production of the therapeutic radioisotopes Y-90 and Re-186 will be limited the investigations mainly affected are diagnostic," the authors write. "The most significant procedures will be myocardial perfusion imaging, bone scans, renograms and some intraoperative sentinel node detection procedures for breast cancer."

Abstract - Perkins
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Abstract - Stafford
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