Nuke medicine tests may be briefly delayed

Trouble at Chalk River reactor in Ontario trouble causes temporary isotope shortage for some B.C. patients

The Chalk River reactor in Ontario is the primary national supplier of medical isotopes. It briefly suspended production last week – the latest in a number of disruptions over the years – resulting in potential delays in some nuclear medicine tests in B.C.

Some non-urgent nuclear medicine tests may be postponed this week at B.C. health care facilities due to a temporary shortage of medical isotopes after production was briefly disrupted at an Ontario reactor late last week.

Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.’s aging Chalk River facility resumed production of molybdenum-99 over the weekend.

But officials at the Provincial Health Services Authority said it will take several days for B.C. hospitals to be fully resupplied, and some patients may be contacted to reschedule their tests.

B.C. health authorities share and coordinate isotope supplies during such shortages, which have happened several times in the past.

The radioactive isotopes have a short half life measured from hours to weeks so they can’t be stockpiled for long periods.

They’re used for bone scanning, myocardial perfusion imaging, as well as thyroid, lung, liver and other organ imaging.

Fluid containing the radioactive material is injected into more than 50,000 Fraser Health patients per year, allowing medical imaging tests to detect the extent of cancer, for example.

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