Canadian nuclear facility at Chalk River ready to restart

A Canadian nuclear reactor is set to resume producing medical isotopes after being shut for 15 months of repairs.

The National Research Universal reactor in Chalk River, Ontario, was closed in May 2009 after a leak of heavy water within the reactor. It had been producing about a third of the world supply of medical isotopes.

The disruption to supply caused delays and cancellations of diagnostic tests that use the isotopes, including scans for cardiovascular disease and cancer…

Medical officials welcomed the 53-year-old reactor’s return to service

The shortage caused by the Chalk River reactor’s closure was exacerbated by the shut-down for maintenance of another major isotope-producing reactor in Petten, in the Netherlands.

The isotopes produced at the Chalk River plant are used for medical imaging and diagnostic scans for fractures, cancer and heart conditions.

Phew!

Patients at serious risk after hospitals overdose CT scans

When Alain Reyes’s hair suddenly fell out in a freakish band circling his head, he was not the only one worried about his health. His co-workers at a shipping company avoided him, and his boss sent him home, fearing he had a contagious disease.

Only later would Mr. Reyes learn what had caused him so much physical and emotional grief: he had received a radiation overdose during a test for a stroke at a hospital in Glendale, Calif.

Other patients getting the procedure, called a CT brain perfusion scan, were being overdosed, too — 37 of them just up the freeway at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, 269 more at the renowned Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and dozens more at a hospital in Huntsville, Ala.

The overdoses, which began to emerge late last summer, set off an investigation by the Food and Drug Administration into why patients tested with this complex yet lightly regulated technology were bombarded with excessive radiation. After 10 months, the agency has yet to provide a final report on what it found.

But an examination by The New York Times has found that radiation overdoses were larger and more widespread than previously known, that patients have reported symptoms considerably more serious than losing their hair, and that experts say they may face long-term risks of cancer and brain damage.

The review also offers insight into the way many of the overdoses occurred. While in some cases technicians did not know how to properly administer the test, interviews with hospital officials and a review of public records raise new questions about the role of manufacturers, including how well they design their software and equipment and train those who use them…

Officials there said they intentionally used high levels of radiation to get clearer images, according to an inquiry by the company that supplied the scanners, GE Healthcare.

Experts say that is unjustified and potentially dangerous

RTFA. The scary bits persist. The incompetence of hospital administrators and staff in charge of procedures is matched by the carelessness of technology firms who apparently figured that folks would RTFM. And that would be good enough.

It ain’t.