Isotope shortage delays diagnostic exams

A global shortage of medical isotopes will cause delays and cancellations to diagnostic examinations across the UK, latest research suggests.

Isotopes are used in over 80 per cent of routine diagnostic nuclear imaging procedures such as heart imaging, bone scans and some cancer detection procedures.

But Europe’s three isotope production reactors are all shut down because of maintenance issues and European producers only have enough radioisotopes to last until today.

Other reactors in Canada and South Africa have also been closed down.

The researchers, from the British Nuclear Medicine Society in London, warned that: ‘If NHS managers in the UK aim to meet the six-week target for diagnostic waiting times by altering bookings on the basis of waiting times rather than clinical priority, some patients may receive sub-optimal treatment.’

BMJ Online 2008

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