An ongoing global shortage of dyes used in X-rays and CT scans is forcing the Lehigh Valley Health Network and St. Luke’s University to postpone imaging procedures for some patients.
Hospitals and healthcare systems are experiencing a shortage of intravenous imaging contrast, a dye used in imaging tests. LVHN and St. Luke’s have sent notices or posted on their websites that because of this they are postponing elective or outpatient imaging procedures that require it.
LVHN said in a statement that the network “has resources to diagnose the most critical cases, including strokes, heart attacks, trauma and other life-threatening emerging conditions.”
A press release from St. Luke’s says the network’s ability to perform imaging tests that require the dye in “all but the most critical cases” is limited until supply chain issues be corrected.
Both networks declined to comment further. Patients whose appointments have been rescheduled will be rescheduled once supplies return to more normal levels.
Chris Chamberlain, vice president of emergency management for the Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania, said HAP has heard from hospitals across the state dealing with shortages. He said they hadn’t heard how badly the shortage had impacted operations at member hospitals.
Contrast media are chemicals often used to increase the contrast of structures or fluids in the body, making it easier for healthcare professionals to spot abnormalities through medical imaging such as CT scans, MRIs, x-rays and angiography procedures. Although the type of contrast material used depends on the procedure, the type used for CT scans and X-rays is iodine-based and these are the rare ones.
Shortage is another global supply chain issue occurring amid the pandemic and one of many to hit the healthcare industry. Chamberlain said that during the pandemic, the health care industry has faced severe shortages of blood and workers. Shortages of raw materials like silicone and aluminum have also created problems for hospitals.
The shortage is forcing health networks to prioritize how they use contact media supplies for emerging cases.
“Our doctors will work with their patients to determine if they can benefit from non-contrast CT scans or alternative tests, such as ultrasound, MRI or nuclear scans,” said Barbara Schindo, spokeswoman for Penn State Health, in an email.
North America is the world’s largest market for contrast media and the continent’s largest supplier is GE Healthcare, a US-based multinational. Most of the contrast products distributed by GE Healthcare are manufactured in the Chinese megalopolis and the manufacturing center of Shanghai.
But due to the coronavirus outbreaks that began in early April, China has temporarily locked down Shanghai and some other cities as part of its “dynamic zero-COVID” policy. Businesses in Shanghai have been temporarily closed, including the manufacturing plant where GE Healthcare’s contrast media come from. The closures have also affected some other major contrast media suppliers such as Italian company Bracco Imaging SPA.
However, the Chinese government has prioritized reviving industry in Shanghai, and “key industrial chains, such as automobiles, integrated circuits and biomedicine, have continued to recover and increase their production capacity. “, according to a May 11 article published by Chinese state media. People’s Daily. Some reports have also said that the Shanghai factory where iodine contrast media are made has resumed operations, but shortages will continue at least until the end of June and possibly July.
GE Healthcare and Bracco did not respond to messages about the current status of the manufacturing plant.
With the shortage expected to last at least a month and a half, HAP is talking with the American Hospital Association and other state hospital associations.
“We are certainly monitoring this to ensure the supply of IV contrast media so that we don’t see a prolonged impact,” Chamberlain said.
HAP also recommends that members use conservation strategies, such as choosing to use contrast media for certain patients and situations, as well as broadening the search for alternative providers and vendors.
LVHN is exploring alternative sources and providers for intravenous contrast, according to a statement. Both LVHN and St. Luke use other imaging tools, such as MRI, as alternatives where available.
While it’s impossible to predict what might cause another shortage, Chamberlain said HAP is also advising member hospitals to be prepared for what might happen due to the pandemic.
“It really pushed hospitals to do more than just take a quick look at the supply chain,” Chamberlain said. “We relied on our suppliers to give us just-in-time deliveries and if we were to have a problem, we would have them double up for us quickly and that was about it. Well, what we learned during the pandemic, is that it is not enough.”
Morning Call reporter Leif Greiss can be reached at 610-679-4028 or email@example.com.