Global Contrast Media Shortage Blamed on COVID Lockdown in China

Global shortages of contrast media for CT imaging brought on by recent COVID-19 lockdowns may last through June.

Last month, GE Healthcare announced it would be limiting orders of Omnipaque (iohexol) after its Shanghai factory, which produces the iodinated contrast material, was temporarily closed because of a city-wide lockdown. The factory has since been reopened, and in addition, the company’s Ireland facility has increased production, but GE expects an 80% reduction in supplies for the next 6 to 8 weeks, Reuters and the Greater New York Hospital Association report.

Hospitals around the United States are now preparing to mitigate the effects of this limited supply on patient care. “While we have been told to expect normal production to resume late next month, hospitals are exploring various conservation strategies including the use of other imaging technologies, using other contrast agents, rationing contrast and ensuring every available drop of contrast dye is used efficiently, and postponing some scans that can be postponed, to give a few examples, in order to continue to provide needed care,” said Nancy Foster, the vice president of quality and patient safety policy at the American Hospital Association, in a statement on May 10.

The American College of Radiology (ACR) issued a statement on May 6 to offer guidance during the storage. The medical society recommended working with other departments that also use iodinated contrast materials — such as urology, gastroenterology, and vascular surgery — to prioritize usage of the limited supply, as well as using alternatives such as iothalamate meglumine or diatrizoate for oral, rectal, and genitourinary administration. “Ensure enough contrast dose is used for diagnostic image quality,” the ACR statement advised. “Do not sacrifice image quality by using suboptimal doses.”

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