Because of Reactor Problems: Doctors Warn of Bottlenecks – Science

nuclear medicine

Doctors fear that there may be waiting times for radionuclide tests. The reason lies in a research reactor in Belgium.

from dpa

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The thyroid gland is examined in the nuclear medicine clinic.

Photo: DPA/Jan-Peter Kasper

food (dpa). Because of technical problems at the research reactor in Belgium, patients in this country must be prepared for longer waiting times or postponements for certain medical examinations. This is what German nuclear medicine scientists fear, according to a statement from their professional association, BDN. The reason for this in November is the impending suffocation in the supply of so-called radionuclides, which, among other things, are used in the diagnosis of many types of cancer.

So only these materials are produced in six research reactors around the world: in the Czech Republic, Poland, Australia, South Africa, the Netherlands and the Belgian city of Möll. The reactor in Belgium is now out of order due to technical problems. Unfortunately, other European nuclear reactors are currently out of service due to maintenance work, BDN chief Detlev Mocha said from Essen according to the announcement. In November, it is likely that there will be no radionuclides for at least a week.

Radionuclides are radioactive elements that are urgently needed for nuclear medicine diagnostics and treatment. Simply put, doctors use these substances as diagnostic aids. Radionuclides are introduced into the body in a targeted manner to achieve therapeutic effects or to normalize metabolic processes. Visual representation is done by what is called scintigraphy.

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A new facility is required

According to the BDN, radionuclides are used, among other things, in the detailed diagnosis of many types of cancer, for example to rule out or detect metastases. Small particles are also of great importance when examining organs such as the thyroid gland, lungs, kidneys, gallbladder, or liver, and when diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, strokes, or thrombosis.

The six research reactors play no role in energy supply. “But its importance for nuclear medicine and therefore for patient care is huge,” Moca said. “Because reactors are the only source of some radionuclides.”

In Germany alone, according to the BDN, about 60,000 checks with private items are carried out every week, worldwide there are more than 30 million checks per year. Given its great importance to nuclear medicine, the six factories around the world coordinate their production in order to avoid supply gaps.

Now the reactors in Australia and South Africa are supposed to work more. However, according to Moka, problems with 60-year-old systems in Belgium and the Netherlands have increased recently. His plea: “As far as medical care is concerned, it will be urgently necessary to put another system into operation.”

© dpa-infocom, dpa: 221113-99-498282/2

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