Thursday, January 24, 2013

Shortage of Barium affects medical imaging

I have just read this week that there is a shortage of Barium (actually Barite) which is affecting medical imaging. Barium is used in Gastro-Intestinal (GI) exams in X-ray imaging. The patients drinks a barium solution or the intestine is filled with a liquid containing Barium by the colon. Barium strongly attenuates X-rays and therefore, the GI is clearly seen in the image. The gif below shows a patient swallowing a Barium solution. Colonoscopy is a typical exam which used Barium (see image below). The Barium shortage has several reasons: increased demand, increased safety regulation in Chinese mines (largest supplier worldwide) and Barite world's supply is disappearing. An alternative is necessary as soon as possible or as I also read recently, we have to extract the barium again from the patient's feces... An excelent post about the topic was written here.

File:Normal barium swallow animation.gif    

This shortage reminds me the helium shortage which is also affecting medical imaging.

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