Thursday, August 06, 2009

Technology Helping People

In the midst of environmentalist calls to restrain the use of nuclear technology, a technology which has been of overwhelming benefit to humanity, comes another benefit few of us think about—until we desperately need the testing using radioisotopes produced from nuclear reactor technology, as this article from the Sacramento Bee notes.

An excerpt.

“In Sacramento-area hospitals, important diagnostic tests are becoming costlier, slower and tougher to arrange because of a worldwide shortage of one of the most common medical radioisotopes.

“Doctors use technetium-99m to study whether breast or prostate cancer has spread to the bones, to detect potentially lethal blood clots or infections, and to peer into a beating heart to see how well it's working.

“Alternative ways to conduct most of those studies often cost more or take more time to perform. Some have more side effects.

"This has impacted a lot of hospitals pretty significantly," said Dr. David Shelton, chief of nuclear medicine at UC Davis Medical Center. "We're expecting it's going to get worse in the next couple of weeks."

“Nationwide, with distribution of technetium likely to be uneven for a few months, "it's possible some deaths could occur," said Dr. Michael Graham, president of the Society of Nuclear Medicine and a University of Iowa professor.

“Fatal misdiagnoses are unlikely, he added, but cannot be ruled out amid dwindling supplies of a tool used to study the liver, gallbladder, lungs, kidneys and more.

“Technetium is running short because two of the biggest reactors that make its precursor product are shut down, one to fix a leak and another for routine maintenance.”