A shortage of contrast dye used for CT scans, gastrointestinal imaging, angiograms and cardiac catheterizations is expected to cause delays across the country and around the world for people in need of the procedures.
The shortage of iodine-based contrast dye was sparked by ongoing COVID-19 lockdowns in Shanghai, China, which have forced GE Healthcare’s pharmaceutical manufacturing plant to temporarily close.
The Michigan Health and Hospital Association, which represents all 133 community hospitals in the state, told the Free Press that it isn’t clear how many are likely to feel a pinch from the shortage.
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“The MHA is actively working to understand how widespread the problem is within our membership,” said John Karasinski, a spokesperson for the MHA. “We have communicated the shortage to our members, including a resource from the American College of Radiology on conservation strategies for providers during the shortage of contrast media.
“During this shortage, patients may have outpatient CT scans rescheduled or switched to alternative radiology services. The MHA is advocating for parity of coverage from health insurers for any necessary alternatives until the shortage is resolved.”
Traverse City-based Munson Healthcare told the Free Press it has put together an interdisciplinary team to address the issue.
“We continue to schedule appointments for CT scans,” said Branden Hill, director of radiology for Munson, which has eight hospitals in Cadillac, Charlevoix, Gaylord, Grayling, Traverse City, Manistee, Otsego and Frankfort. “We are evaluating this on a daily basis and have contingency plans for prioritization of patients should that time come.”
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Munson’s spokesperson, Dale Killingbeck, declined to provide the Free Press with details about how it will prioritize procedures, what percentage of the hospital system’s supply of contrast materials comes from GE Healthcare, how much is currently in stock or how long that supply is likely to last.
“We … are not willing to go into specific numbers, plans, etc.” Killingbeck said in an email.
Several other Michigan hospital systems — McLaren Health Care, Sparrow Health System, Henry Ford Health, Trinity Health Michigan, and the BHSH System (formerly Beaumont Health and Spectrum Health) — told the Free Press they don’t expect the shortage in GE Healthcare’s supply of contrast dye to affect them because they don’t use the company’s product.
Instead, they use Isovue, an intravenous contrast agent distributed by Bracco Diagnostics Inc. that is made in Germany and Italy.
“Our supply has been uninterrupted,” said Dr. Daniel Myers, a vice chairman of radiology at Henry Ford Health.
“We have have had meetings with folks at Bracco and discussed it. … We’ve had assurances from them that there won’t be issues for customers such as Henry Ford Health, who obtain a high percentage of our contrast from them.
“We’re keeping an eye on things and monitoring internal stock and keeping the loop open with Bracco and touching base with them periodically just to make sure everything is good.”
Mary Masson, director of public relations for Michigan Medicine, said the Ann Arbor-based hospital system also relies mostly on Bracco to supply its contrast dye. However, she didn’t detail what percentage of contrast material, if any, University of Michigan-affiliated hospitals get from GE Healthcare.
“We are less impacted by the current GE shortages,” she told the Free Press in an email message. “However, we are always aggressively monitoring supply-chain concerns, keeping our clinical teams informed and working to mitigate any impact to our patients. We are working to switch to alternative products where appropriate. At this time, we have had no delays in procedures or diagnostic tests.”
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Detroit Medical Center spokesman Jason Barczy did not specify which type of contrast material the eight-hospital health system uses, but said in an emailed statement: “We are not experiencing a shortage and as a result, we are scheduling and performing procedures without interruption. “
Ascension Michigan did not return emails or phone calls from the Free Press about the contrast dye shortage.
Myers said he’d like to think the impact in Michigan will be minimal.
“One hopes there’s no geographic area where everybody’s getting contrast from GE,” Myers said. “As long as somebody is getting contrast, then the patients at least can go to a different place to get it there and everything should work out ultimately. But if you’re in a rural area, I suppose that could be potentially a problem. “
Still, he said, it’s important that people continue to schedule testing as their doctors recommend.
“I don’t want people to think they shouldn’t go see their doctors because they won’t get an adequate test,” Myers said. “People need to get their health care.”
GE Healthcare’s production of contrast dye is expected to return to normal by late June, the American Hospital Association said in a statement.
The company increased the output of contrast dye made at its factory in Ireland to compensate for shortages from its Shanghai factory, Reuters reported.
Contact Kristen Jordan Shamus: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @kristenshamus.
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