August 9, 2009

Expert: Lack of isotopes a health risk

A University of Iowa official says the current limited supply of radioisotopes used in medical scans could put some patients' lives in danger.

Dr. Michael Graham, a university official and president of SNM, formerly known as the Society of Nuclear Medicine, said some medical patients could be facing risky surgeries that could be avoided through medical scans utilizing the isotopes, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday.

It's possible that some deaths could occur, Graham said.

The radioisotopes are used in medical scans for afflictions such as heart disease and cancer.

The amount of available radioisotopes is limited due, in part, to the recent shutdown of the National Research Universal reactor in Chalk River, Canada, and the Petten nuclear reactor in the Netherlands.

The Chalk River reactor is not expected to reopen until late this year because of a leak problem, while the Petten plant is facing at least three months' worth of repairs.

Radiologist Robert W. Atcher of the University of New Mexico agreed the lack of radioisotopes from the two sites could by problematic.

Atcher said the shortage is one of the greatest threats to our profession of modern times, the Times reported.