Isotope Shortage Delays Medical Tests

Reactor closure causes shortages in US, Canada
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 8, 2007 10:21 AM CST
A technician test equipment. Lack of the vital radioactive ingredient molybdenum means that many medical scans are being postponed.   (KRT Photos)
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(Newser) – Shortages of a radioactive substance are endangering thousands of medical tests in hospitals across the US and Canada, the AP reports. The development is the result of a longer-than-anticipated shutdown of a nuclear reactor in Canada, the main supplier in North America. Technetium-99 is injected into patients to check for a variety of serious conditions, including cancer and heart disease.

"This week it's devastating, and next week potentially catastrophic," a Canadian doctor said. The reactor shut down last month, originally for five days, but it may not open again until January. Hospitals are searching for alternative supplies but are having to turn patients away in the meantime. "It's clearly not a good situation," said Dr. Philip Alderson of New York-Presbyterian.