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Shortage of IV imaging dye hits hospitals in our region

Published: May. 13, 2022 at 5:57 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - A worldwide shortage of a medical dye used for intravenous imaging in patients is now impacting hospitals in Vermont.

GE Healthcare’s iodinated contrast media is used for imaging including CT scans and angiograms. But most of the world’s supply is made at a facility in Shanghai, China, which has been under strict COVID lockdowns for weeks.

“We are trying to preserve high-quality care for our patients,” said David Clauss, the chief medical officer with the UVM Health Network.

He says the network’s hospitals in Vermont and New York are coming up with new protocols to deal with a dearth of the dye.

Even though the China facility is now open, the shortage it created is expected to last for months. Hospitals were notified just last week of the global shortage and went to work on how to preserve their supplies.

Throughout the UVM Health Network, each time a provider orders a test, radiologists will now scrutinize the request to see if there’s an alternative that doesn’t use the dye.

“We want to act on the cautious side so that if this is a longer shortage than we anticipate, that we will still be able to meet the needs of the patients who need it most,” Clauss said. He says UVM doesn’t expect to see its supply replenished until August.

At Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington, chief medical officer Trey Dobson says they are taking similar actions. He says hospitals are only receiving 20% of their normal supply. When it comes to procedures, they are having providers rank the priority of cases. Dobson says alternative tests can often be much more expensive.

“Our state legislators are aware and they are reaching out and working with the insurance companies to ensure that during this short period of time when we don’t have enough IV contrast for CT, that if an MRI is ordered, that it will still be covered by the insurer and the patient will not see an increase in the cost,” he said.

Dobson also says with all the shortages associated with COVID, it should be a wake-up call about where America’s medical products are manufactured. “I think it shows a weakness in relying on overseas production that is limited to one particular area and I’m hopeful that the country is waking up to that, that the legislators are waking up to that and bring back some manufacturing to the United States,” he said.

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