Supply chain issues affecting medical imaging procedures

Published: May. 10, 2022 at 6:35 PM CDT
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - Kansas City Metro hospitals are bracing for a hit to patient care as procedures involving imaging are being put on hold. It’s yet another blow from the supply chain crisis.

“There is a global shortage of contrast media,” said Dr. Phil Johnson, Clinical Services Chief of Radiology at the University of Kansas Health Systems. “It was triggered by a COVID lockdown that occurred in China and the world’s largest producer of Contrast Dye has their facilities in China.”

The shortage is estimated to last up to eight weeks with a projected 80% reduction in supply. The dye is used in procedures like CT scans. It provides doctors with a detailed view of bones, muscles, organs, even down to blood vessels.

“If a patient presents with a stroke and they have a clot that’s in a blood vessel in the brain, the only way you can get up there is to take a micro catheter up into the brain and inject dye so you can see that clot,” said Johnson.

News of the shortage has now left hospitals worldwide scrambling to pivot.

“I don’t think it was clear how serious this was until last week. And it came on very abruptly and unexpectedly,” said Johnson.

“We’re trying to reserve what little dye we have so that we can now get the most critically ill patients who really need that dye to answer a diagnostic question,” said Dr. Steve Stites, Chief Medical Officer at The University of Kansas Health System.

In some cases, physicians are even forced to turn to alternative procedures.

“There are scenarios where the contrast is ideal or it’s helpful, but there are other scenarios where the contrast is essential,” said Johnson.

For now, doctors are finding ways to cope, but say it’s just another product of the pandemic.

“Jack be nimble. Jack be quick. You’ve got to jump over the COVID stick here. Here we are doing it again,” said Stites.

Stites said while some procedures will be delayed, patients are still encouraged to seek care. Stites added if there are changes to care, it’s not believed the shortage will impact insurance coverage.

“It’s not like an insurance company can say – we didn’t hear about this. This is a global issue,” said Stites.