Global dye shortage affecting Alberta medical imaging

·1 min read

Alberta Health Services announced June 10 that a global shortage in contrast dye was forcing the province to postpone some patients’ medical imaging procedures.

Contrast dye is used by medical imaging technology like CT scans and angiography to produce a clearer image of body tissue such as blood vessels, organs, bones and ligaments.

The bulk of the world’s contrast dye is produced in a manufacturing plant in Shanghai, which has been interrupted by a government-mandated shutdown due to Covid-19.

AHS has started delaying about 1,500 procedures a week, though patients’ imaging procedures will be postponed only if considered safe to do so. Alternative imaging methods, like ultrasound and MRI, remain an option.

Although the situation continues to develop, doctors will continue ordering imaging as needed and consider other imaging options as appropriate, says Crowsnest Medical Clinic’s Dr. Vanessa Rogers.

“The contrast-containing studies are required to be discussed directly with the radiologist on call if something urgent or emergent is required,” she adds. “We have been told that radiologists are reviewing all requests for CT scans that require contrast so that they can prioritize scans and offer alternatives if available.”

Patients whose procedures will be delayed will be contacted directly by AHS and will be rescheduled as soon as possible.

About 10,000 imaging scans a week are performed in Alberta, with around half of those requiring contrast dye.

Currently there is no information on when global supplies of the dye will return to normal. Similarly, AHS had not gathered any information on the number of procedures officially cancelled in the south zone at the time of publication.

Patients with questions about their procedure status are asked to speak to their physician.

Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze

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