HONOLULU (KHON2) — Some medical procedures are being delayed due to a shortage of what is known as a contrast dye. Health officials said it’s forcing hospitals and other imaging facilities to limit the use of the dye to patients in critical need.
Contrast dye is widely used during computerized tomography (CT) scans. The liquid is injected to provide a higher contrast to make it easier to diagnose a blood clot, to see if a stroke has occurred, and to determine if a tumor is growing.
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“The contrast media gets to certain parts of the body as it is intended to do and actually provides a higher level of clarity or imaging, and so it is very very useful,” said Hilton Raethel, president and CEO of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii.
Raethel said hospitals not just around the country but internationally have had to conserve the use of the contrast dye. That’s because much of it is made in a plant in Shanghai which was forced to stop operations during the lockdown. Raethel said hospitals are only using the dye for those in critical need of the scan.
“If something was not urgent and could be postponed safely for a few weeks, then some of those have been postponed. And so the screening would still occur, but maybe it will occur three to four weeks later,” said Raethel.
Other options are also being considered such as doing a CT scan without the contrast, as well as MRI, or X-ray scans. Raethel added that if the whole vial of the dye is not used, hospitals are coordinating scans so the rest of it can be used for another patient.
“We made sure that we coordinated our activities to ensure that we use all of the contrast media in that vile rather than just throw away unused media, which we may have done previously,” said Raethel.
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He said the good thing is that the plant in Shanghai has resumed making the dye. But due to the international demand, he said the shortage will likely continue through mid to late June.