September 7, 2008

Isotope Shortage Means Delays for Scans

Hundreds of patients face delays to vital scans for cancer and other diseases due to a "severe shortage" of imaging chemicals, an expert has warned.

A global shortage of medical isotopes used in scans of hearts, bones, kidneys and some cancers will cause delays and cancellations across the UK in the coming weeks.

British hospitals are currently receiving less than 50% of expected supplies and rations are expected to drop even further, the experts warned.

The isotopes are used in more than 80% of diagnostic nuclear imaging procedures.

Professor Alan Perkins, secretary of 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.

"These patients are going to be facing delays. Clinicians will be addressing the issue on the basis of clinical need."

Prof Perkins also warned that doctors should avoid giving patients inappropriate tests in order to meet a Government target to scan patients within six weeks.

Three of the five global nuclear reactors supplying medical isotopes are shut down.

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