Because of the reactor problems: Doctors warn of suffocation – science

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

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

So this material is only produced in six research reactors around the world: in the Czech Republic, Poland, Australia, South Africa, the Netherlands and the Belgian city of Mole. 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, according to BDN President Detlev Moka of Essen, according to the announcement. In November, we will likely be without radionuclides for at least a week.

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

New facility required

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

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The six research reactors play no role in power supply. But Mocha said its importance to nuclear medicine, and thus to patient care, is great. Because reactors are the only source of some radionuclides.

In Germany alone, according to the BDN, about 60 thousand examinations with special items are carried out every week, and worldwide there are more than 30 million examinations annually. Due to 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 run more. However, according to Moka, problems with 60-year-old systems have recently increased in Belgium and the Netherlands. His plea: In terms of medical care, it will be urgently necessary to get another system to work.

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

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