BUFFALO, N.Y. — Hospitals across the country and here in Western New York are seeing shortages of the contrast dye used for medical imaging, and it stems from COVID lockdowns in China this past spring.
Lockdowns in April, May, and June forced the closure of a GE manufacturing facility in Shanghai that makes contrast dye, which highlights different areas on a CT scan or other images.
Dane Franklin, the director of imaging services for Catholic Health, says it took a little while for supplies to dwindle and for hospitals in the U.S. to feel the effects. He added that at one point, the Catholic Health system was getting just five to 10% of the contrast dye shipment they normally would.
They're now getting about 60 percent of their normal allocation as production ramps up again and shipments improve.
"What we've been told is that manufacturing will be fully reinstated by the end of July, and we are appreciating that the contrast supplies are increasing every single week," said Franklin.
Still, Catholic Health had to pivot to make sure patients didn't miss out on important care.
"A couple of things that we needed to do and are continuing to do, is to push our outpatients to other facilities within the Catholic Medical partners umbrella which use a different manufacturer of contrast, and we've also resorted to using different types of contrast that are specific to different procedures," said Franklin.
Health experts say this isn't cause for alarm, and they don't want people to put off medical care or think they have to cancel appointments. Franklin said there are alternatives to CT scans that also meet care standards.
"A good example of that is a lot of patients who would normally get a CT for a particular indication would receive an MRI or ultrasound instead. We did a lot of work to ensure that we would not exhaust our supplies of contrast and would always have that available to those patients who absolutely needed it," said Franklin.
Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center released a statement regarding the dye used for medical imaging:
"Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center has resumed normal operations regarding CTs with contrast. We are pleased the supply chain of contrast dye is stabilizing so we can provide our patients with these important scans. Our teams will continue to monitor the situation locally, nationally, and globally."