Cyclotron fix means PET-CT scan backlog may be cleared in weeks

The backlog of people awaiting PET-CT scans used to diagnose cancer, epilepsy and dementia should be cleared in three to four weeks, AHS said in announcing a broken cyclotron is back to full operation.

Alberta Health Services rescheduling backlog of patients based on urgency

Erica Malanchuk was one of the hundreds of Albertans whose PET-CT scans were delayed due to repeated breakdowns of a medical machine called a cyclotron in Edmonton. AHS says it's fixed and the backlog of patients should be cleared in three to four weeks. (Colleen Underwood/CBC News)

Alberta Health Services says a broken cyclotron in Edmonton has been fixed, so it should take three to four weeks to clear a backlog of people awaiting PET-CT scans used to diagnose cancer, epilepsy and dementia.

The cyclotron, a particle accelerator, produces the radioactive substance fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG), which is required for the scans. It normally produces enough FDG daily to supply hospitals in Calgary and Edmonton.

The cyclotron broke down several times this fall — most recently for four weeks — forcing hundreds of cancellations and postponements of the scans.

Alberta Health Services (AHS) said Monday that they had begun rescheduling more than 350 patients who were still waiting for a scan.

The appointments will be booked based on urgency as determined by radiologists.

The province hopes to have the backlog cleared up in three to four weeks by providing additional scans.

Doctors were able to complete about 70 per cent of the usual patient scan volume during the shutdown using material from other provinces, AHS says.

AHS is working to come up with solutions to ensure it has options for patients in the event of a prolonged cyclotron shutdown in future, the province says.

PET-CT scans provide detailed images of cell function in the body and are used to diagnose many types and stages of cancer, epilepsy and dementia.

All other scans, including regular CT scans, were not affected.


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