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Shortage of contrast dye forcing hospitals world-wide to ration, and delay procedures

Shortage of intravenous contrast fluid used to help doctors diagnose brain bleeds, clots or tumors
Published: May. 23, 2022 at 7:54 PM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - There is currently a worldwide shortage of the dye that’s used in CT scans and a variety of other lifesaving procedures.

That shortage comes after a COVID-19 lockdown in Shanghai, where over 80% of the fluid is produced.

Intravenous contrast is the dye that can assist doctors in diagnosing a brain bleed, clot or tumor.

“The vascular organs in the abdomen that we’re interested in are like the heart, or the liver, spleen, pancreas, kidneys, etc., that are all have blood in it, so when you inject the intravenous contrast into it, they enhance, allowing the radiologist to differentiate a normal structure from a non-normal structure like a tumor or a mass,” said Scott Daigle.

The dye is most commonly used in CT scans.

“When you inject the contrast into the venous system, the vascular organs absorb it and enhance, sort of like turning on a light,” said Scott Daigle.

Right now, a shortage is being linked to a complete shutdown of a major IV contrast producer.

“80% of the world’s contrast is made in Shanghai, China, and they had to shut down the factory for two weeks because of COVID. So, it basically created a world-wide shortage, which we were locally affected as well,” said Scott Daigle.

Because of this, Director of Radiology at Lake Charles Memorial, Scott Daigle, said hospitals worldwide are having to defer non-urgent medical procedures and use alternate imaging like ultrasounds.

“So we’re not compromising healthcare by any means, we’re just having to postpone some routine follow ups, or substitute with other imaging modalities,” said Scott Daigle.

While Daigle said they are making-do despite the shortage, he said CT scans can often be the best way to make life-saving diagnoses.

“A CAT scan is sort of the gold standard, because it’s a 1 stop shop for imaging, and you get much more information from a CAT scan,” said Scott Daigle.

Factories in Germany and Switzerland increased production of their IV contrast to help with the worldwide shortage, and the factory in Shanghai went back online last week, so Daigle said he does not expect this to be a long-lasting shortage.

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