Bluewater Health managing intravenous contrast shortage

Bluewater Health Medical Director of Diagnostic Imaging Dr. Youssef Almalki shows off the new GE Revolution CT machine at the Sarnia hospital. January 11, 2017 photo by Melanie Irwin

A worldwide shortage of intravenous contrast is being closely monitored by Bluewater Health.

Medical Director of Diagnostic Imaging Dr. Youssef Almalki said they were notified that only 50 per cent of their typical shipments will be received in the coming weeks as a shortage is expected to last until the end of this month.

“It is anticipated that this reduction in supply will only last until the end of June and this is due to supply chain issues, secondary to issues in China with COVID lockdowns,” said Almalki.

He said the solution is used in computed tomography (CT or CAT) scans.

“We’ve implemented conservation strategies for intravenous contrast for CT exams and we will continue to monitor our use and our need to either reduce or relax our use of contrast.”

Dr. Almalki said they’re also using alternative methods of imaging that don’t require the solution.

“For somebody who, unfortunately, has cancer, and they’re having cancer follow-up, we can do it without contrast because we have previous imaging and then depending on which organs are involved, they can get an ultrasound to determine how their cancer is doing, in let’s say the liver or any other organ.”

Dr. Almalki said they’re not expecting any appointment cancellations at this time.

“We are really good at Bluewater Health in terms of conserving contrast, even before this started. So we have exams that only use 25 cc’s (cubic centimeter) of contrast, where other places us 80 cc’s for the same exam and then we have exams that we use up to 100 cc’s. We use about a million cc’s of contrast a year.”

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exams with contrast are not impacted, nor are ultrasound or x-ray exams at Bluewater Health.

The hospital said more updates will be provided in the coming weeks.

Dr. Almalki also serves as the cancer imaging and breast imaging lead for Erie St. Clair.