Now there’s a shortage of contrast for CT scans

[anvplayer video=”5110695″ station=”998131″]

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — We have another supply shortage because of COVID. This time it’s contrast, which is the critical fluid for people getting scans for strokes, heart attacks and cancer, and News10NBC found out the problem pretty much mirrors the shortage problem with baby formula.

One company makes almost all the contrast in the world: General Electric. It has one plant that makes most of its contrast. That’s in China. In March it got shut down in a COVID outbreak, and now the impact is here.

"It’s really a COVID problem," Dr. Jennifer Harvey of UR Medicine Imaging said.

Dr. Harvey said the hospital system is rationing contrast because it must maintain a certain amount for critical patients. They do about 100 scans a day.

Dr. Jennifer Harvey: "Probably 90% would typically have contrast. And we’ve reduced that number by about 90%."

Brean: "Does that affect the clarity of their scan or the efficacy of the scan?"

Dr. Harvey: "In the vast majority of cases it does not."

Contrast is a liquid that gets injected into a body to, in the case of cancer, highlight problem cells. The GE plant in Shanghai, China was shut down in March. It’s at 50% now and GE is flying contrast to the United States so it arrives faster.

Brean: "It strikes me as sort of amazing as how many things that perhaps we took for granted are affected by COVID."

Dr. Harvey: "It does make you think what’s going to happen next week? Our reliance, we really need to start to diversity our supplies I think."

I asked Dr. Harvey how long she thinks this is going to last. She thinks maybe to the end of June.