Al­berta Health Ser­vices works to re­solve cy­clotron breakdown

The McLeod River Post - - Viewpoint - Spe­cial to the Post

Some pa­tients re­quir­ing PET/ CT scans are hav­ing their scans post­poned due to a me­chan­i­cal is­sue with a ma­chine that pro­duces the ma­te­rial re­quired to do the scans.

Positron emis­sion to­mog­ra­phy/com­puted to­mog­ra­phy scans – or PET/CT for short – are an im­por­tant di­ag­nos­tic tool. They pro­vide de­tailed images of cell func­tion in the body and are used to di­ag­nose many types of can­cer, epilepsy and de­men­tia, as well as check if a dis­ease is re­gress­ing or if treat­ment is work­ing.

The scans are car­ried out at Foothills Med­i­cal Cen­tre in Calgary, and the Univer­sity of Al­berta Hospi­tal and Cross Can­cer In­sti­tute in Ed­mon­ton.

PET/CT scan­ners re­quire a ma­te­rial called flu­o­rodeoxyglu-cose (FDG) in or­der to carry out scans. This ma­te­rial is pro­duced daily in Ed­mon­ton in a large ma­chine called a cy­clotron.

On Septem­ber 28, the cy­clotron suf­fered a me­chan­i­cal breakdown, caus­ing an eight­day shut­down. Al­berta Health Ser­vices (AHS) sourced FDG from other prov­inces in or­der to ad­dress ur­gent cases - but it was not enough to do all sched­uled scans; about 180 pa­tients had their scans resched­uled.

On Oc­to­ber 14 it suf­fered a sec­ond me­chan­i­cal breakdown linked to the first shut­down, and is ex­pected to be down for at least an­other week. In re­gards to the cur­rent cy­clotron out­age, 69 pa­tients (40 in Calgary and 29 in Ed­mon­ton) have so far been told their PET/ CT scans have been post­poned and will be resched­uled for a later date.

In Calgary, we are able to per­form ap­prox­i­mately 13 scans a day (nor­mally we can per­form 19). In Ed­mon­ton, we are able to per­form ap­prox­i­mately 23 scans a day (nor­mally 30).

AHS sin­cerely apol­o­gizes for any in­con­ve­nience th­ese de­lays have caused to pa­tients and their fam­i­lies. We know this is caus­ing stress and anx­i­ety and we are do­ing all we can to fix it. Some scans con­tinue to be done; de­ci­sions are made based on clin­i­cal acu­ity. Pa­tients with higher acu­ity will have their scans done first.

We have been con­tact­ing all af­fected pa­tients to resched­ule ap­point­ments. We are aware that some pa­tients have al­ready had their scans resched­uled twice, and apol­o­gize for that; sites are tak­ing steps to en­sure that, where pos­si­ble, pa­tients are not resched­uled a third time.

AHS will proac­tively re­im­burse out-of-town pa­tients for travel and ac­com­mo­da­tion costs in­curred due to resched­uled ap­point­ments.

We are do­ing every­thing we can to fix the cy­clotron and have it up and run­ning as soon as pos­si­ble. All PET/ CT are be­ing re­booked to take place as soon as pos­si­ble and are sched­uled ac­cord­ing to ur­gency as de­ter­mined by our ra­di­ol­o­gists. Scans will be per­formed on week­ends in or­der to ac­com­mo­date more pa­tients.

It’s im­por­tant to note that while the ma­chine pro­duces an end prod­uct that is ra­dioac­tive, no ra­dioac­tive ma­te­ri­als are in­volved in the ma­chin­ery fail­ure and it does not pose any risk to the pub­lic.

The Ed­mon­ton cy­clotron is Al­berta Health Ser­vices’ sole sup­plier of FDG. The cost of the cy­clotron and the con­struc­tion of the build­ing to house it would cost be­tween $5 mil­lion and $10 mil­lion. Break­downs have been ex­tremely rare in the past. We are as­sess­ing the fea­si­bil­ity of build­ing a sec­ond cy­clotron ca­pa­ble of pro­duc­ing FDG in Calgary. De­ci­sions about a project of this mag­ni­tude need to be bal­anced with other health care pri­or­i­ties.

Pa­tients await­ing a PET/CT scan who have ques­tions or con­cerns should call the Di­ag­nos­tic Imag­ing lo­ca­tion where their ap­point­ments were orig­i­nally sched­uled:

Photo cour­tesy of AHS

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