Global contrast shortage continues 

3 minute read

The TGA has warned that healthcare workers face lengthy delays for non-ionic and iodinated contrast media.

Hospitals and radiology service providers should continue conserving their stock of contrast media, with normal supply unlikely to resume before the end of the year.  

In an update released this afternoon, the TGA has advised that some non-ionic contrast agents are becoming more available, with small but regular shipments of both Australian and overseas-registered agents set to arrive in Australia.  

However, supply of both iodinated and non-iodinated contrast media will remain affected by the global shortage indefinitely.   

If stock levels become extremely depleted, hospitals and radiology service providers are instructed to contact sponsors directly, the TGA has stated.   

The TGA advises clinicians “consider the current shortage of iodinated contrast media (contrast) diagnostic agents when referring patients for imaging” and consider the following steps:  

  • Being judicious in the use of contrast for all modalities that use contrast 
  • Using non-contrast CT when acceptable 
  • Delaying non-urgent scans 
  • Where possible using other modalities such as MRI or nuclear medicine 
  • Coordinating between private practices and public hospitals to best serve patients in need of contrast CT scans 
  • Develop plans for the management and treatment of patients without the level of diagnosis that they may be accustomed to. 

The update was added to an earlier statement issued by the TGA in collaboration with the college of radiologists, which offered a guide to help health professionals urgently conserve their contrast media stock. 

Previously, the RANZCR had advised GPs to carry on requesting medical imaging and referring patients for scans as usual, but it was unclear how ongoing reductions in supplies would affect this. 

“The RANCZR recommends that medical practitioners who are concerned about referring a patient for a CT or other imaging during this time should consult with a radiologist,” according to the TGA alert. “The radiologist can provide advice on alternative imaging modalities or other strategies that could be used to diagnose clinical conditions. 

The global contrast shortage comes as a result of prolonged, unexpected lockdowns in Shanghai, which have caused ongoing freight delays and reduced manufacturing capacity. 

“The issue is not to restrict scans, because it’s very difficult when you’re seeing a patient in your consulting rooms to decide, because there’s a contrast shortage, whether they should request a scan,” RANZCR president Clinical Associate Professor Sanjay Jeganathan told TMR in May.

“[GPs] should really continue with what they’re doing and we’ll do our best to give them the answer they’re looking for,” said Professor Jeganathan.

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