Isotope shortage worries doctors

Technetium-99m generator
Technetium-99m generatorCourtesy Brookhaven National Laboratory
A sudden shortage of a radioisotope
used in about 14 million medical procedures each year in the US is causing concern within the medical community.

Technetium-99m, an isotope derived from radioactive molybdenum-99, is in short supply because one of the key processing facilities in Canada has gone off-line for some overdue maintenance. The Chalk River reactor in Ontario was supposed to shutdown for five days but has remained out of service for nearly two weeks now.

Technetium-99m is used in a number of nuclear medical procedures including bone scans, treating heart and gall-bladder disease, as well as cancer, but because it’s in short supply doctors are fearful that diagnostics may suffer. Medical facilities will have to either cut back in the critical procedures or use less of the technetium-99m and hope the quality of test results don’t suffer.

The Chalk River reactor produces nearly all the radioactive molybdenum-99 used in North America (some comes from European and South African reactors). The radioisotope is then stored in technetium-99m generators allowing technetium, a short-lived decay product, to be withdrawn as needed. Because of its relatively short half-life (about six hours), technetium-99m delivers only a small dose of radioactivity to patients.

"The crunch will come next week if the shortage persists and it looks as if it will," said Dr. Edwin Palmer, director of clinical nuclear medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Unfortunately, the reactor isn’t expected to come back on-line until the end of December or early January


MedPageToday story
New York Times story

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

mdr's picture
mdr says:

A small blurb buried inside today's (Dec. 14, 2007) Minneapolis Star-Tribune states the Chalk River reactor will be restarted to aid the medical shortage of technetium-99m but neglects to say exactly when. However, a Google search located a story that said the restart has already begun but it could be a week before new supplies reach hospitals. Go here for more info.

posted on Fri, 12/14/2007 - 11:48am
DADANG's picture
DADANG says:

Our reseach to mixture polymolybdat whit alumina then was reduced by MoO2 to resalt a blue solid. This solid can't disolve in water or saline. when the blue solid irradiated by neutron then molybdenum to disintegrate to technitium; the technetium only isie to disolve to water and salin.

posted on Fri, 06/24/2011 - 5:58pm

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