Medical scans impacted by Australia-wide shortage

An Australia-wide shortage of technetium (Tc-99m), a radioactive tracer commonly used in a number of Nuclear Medicine diagnostic imaging scans, has resulted in scans across the state being prioritised according to clinical need.

The Department for Health and Wellbeing’s Chief Public Health Officer, Associate Professor Nicola Spurrier, said it is unclear how long the Tc-99m shortage will last and that prioritisation will allow clinicians to make sure that their available resources are properly allocated.

“This might mean in the short-term that some patients may need their outpatient or less urgent scans rescheduled to a later date,” A/Professor Spurrier said.

“It will not impact on other medical imaging scans such as X-rays, CT scans, PET scans and MRIs.

“Tc-99m is mostly used for selective imaging of organs and soft tissues such as the lungs, bones, brain, liver and kidneys, and it is these studies, along with myocardial scans, that may be affected.”

The nation-wide Tc-99m shortage was caused by equipment failure at Australia’s Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANTSO) facility in Lucas Heights, Sydney.

ANTSO are undertaking measures to source supplies from overseas to supplement limited resources in Australia.

“While the shortage will affect the volume of scans that can be taken until the supply resumes, it does not affect all forms of medical diagnostic imaging,” A/Professor Spurrier said.

“This means if it is appropriate, Nuclear Medicine Specialists are available to consult on any alternative sources and types of imaging.

“If anyone waiting for scans has any concerns or questions we encourage them to speak to their clinician.

“Providing world-class care is always our priority and we want to assure everyone that every effort is being made to minimise the impact of this shortage.”

SA Health is working closely with stakeholders to best manage the shortage at a local level.

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