PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — No one plans to have a heart attack or stroke, but when it happens, they do count on the hospital having the supplies needed to help them in that kind of emergency.
A worldwide shortage of IV contrast dye has some worried about those services over the next few months. A COVID-19 outbreak in Shanghai, China, recently forced GE to temporarily close its pharmaceutical manufacturing plant that makes the product.
“Initially when this news first broke, we were obviously very worried,” Sentara Norfolk General Hospital VP and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Michael Hooper told WAVY.
“Not all CT scans, but some CT scans use IV contrast when you want to better light up blood vessels,” he explained. The dye is used, for instance, when someone has a stent placed in an artery to treat a heart attack.
The sudden shutdown shocked officials at Riverside Regional Medical Center as well.
“We were really focused most on conserving, first and foremost, for those urgent emergent situations like a heart attack or stroke,” said Chief Pharmacy Officer Cindy Williams.
Both hospital systems took immediate inventory and implemented strategies to conserve as much product as possible.
“If the study requires 75 milliliters, then let’s make sure that we are getting as close to that vial size as possible,” Williams said. That’s eliminating a good deal of waste, she said.
Doctors are also using other tests such as ultrasounds or MRIs when possible.
Both hospitals said they are confident that they have enough supply to get through. Still, some uncertainty remains. While GE has reopened its plant, the impact of the shortage could last several months.
“I think that all the supply chain disruptions in the midst of the pandemic are and should be a wake-up call for every industry,” Hooper said.
Both hospitals said they will be keeping a close eye on this. They continue to schedule appointments as usual but will prioritize testing that requires the dye if needed down the road. They said life-saving services will not be impacted.