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Toronto Star: Sudden shortage of vital isotope hitting Canadian hospitals

Nov. 10, 2022 – The unexpected shut down of a nuclear reactor in Belgium is creating issues for patients in Canada needing medical imaging procedures.

The Toronto Star reports:

QEII  [Queen Elizabeth II] hospital performs some 6,000 of those diagnostic imaging tests per year. Across Canada that annual figure is close to 1.1 million. The U.S. performs some 15 million tests per year, and the global figure is close to 40 million. 

Most of the isotopes used in those tests — the ones that doctors use to help diagnose everything from cancer to heart disease to lung and kidney issues to gastrointestinal problems — are produced by only six reactors across the planet.

…“They’re not as rare as we wish they were,” says Alan Packard, a past president of the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging, of isotope supply issues, likening a reactor’s surprise shutdown to a flat tire. 


“I don’t know if fragile is the right word, but it’s a supply chain that’s subject to disruption … you can drive with one flat tire. It’s not going to work very well, but you can, so long as you have to. But if you get two flat tires, you’re in big trouble.”


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