No isotope shortage here

The lab at Red Deer hospital will be able to avoid a serious disruption in its supply of radioactive isotopes for nuclear medical testing despite a fluctuating international supply.

The lab at Red Deer hospital will be able to avoid a serious disruption in its supply of radioactive isotopes for nuclear medical testing despite a fluctuating international supply.

Doug Abrams, director of Radiopharmaceutical Centre in Edmonton, said Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre gets 80 per cent of its isotopes from a company that relies on a reactor in Holland.

That reactor will temporarily be shut down this month, but the company will still be able to meet normal demands through most of July.

“(Red Deer) will hardly be affected at all. You’ll be running pretty close to normal, I would say between 90 and 100 per cent,” Abrams said.

The supply may drop slightly in August, he said.

In June, the hospital was testing the most urgent patients and rescheduling others when the Holland reactor was down for a planned closure at the same time the reactor in Chalk River, Ont. shut down for repairs.

Each reactor supplies about one-third of the isotopes used around the world.

About 80 per cent of testing that uses the radio active isotopes are for bone cancer and heart disease scans. Patients are injected with radio active drugs to show how the body is functioning.

The Canadian reactor, originally expected to be down for three months, is now likely to be down for the rest of the year.

Work is underway for other reactors around the world to help with the demand.

“I’d say (in Alberta) we’re coping fairly well. All of the patients that are triaged as high priority are being served. Medium priority patients are being served well as well.”

Testing for patients receiving elective treatment may be postponed for a short time, Abrams said.

The isotope supply after August has not yet been projected, but he expects it will range from 70 to 100 per cent depending on the day.

Alberta is looking at alternative radiopharmaceuticals for some tests to ease the demand and an Alberta Health Services committee has been struck to look at the supply, usage and increasing cost of isotopes.

“There will probably be an impact on the budget but we don’t know what it will be yet.”

Depending on the extent of the shortage, some hospital workers may be required to work overtime or on weekends to make use of isotopes which have a limited shelf life, he said.

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