KANSAS CITY, Kan. — As Kansas City area hospitals continue to climb their way out of the COVID-19 pandemic, they take yet another blow. There’s a global shortage of medical dye.

The shortage was triggered by a COVID-19 lockdown at a facility in China, the largest world-wide producer of contrast media.

The facility is back up and running, but things in Kansas City aren’t back to normal.

KC doctors are calling it a temporary “crisis.”

“It came on very abruptly and unexpectedly,” Clinical Service Chief for Radiology at the University of Kansas Health System Dr. Philip Johnson said.

Over the next eight weeks, hospitals across the metro expect to see an 80% reduction in contrast dye.

We’re not talking about the dye that colors hair. This is medical dye used for X-Ray exams, CT Scans and stroke intervention.

Johnson said the dye is essential in saving a life for a stroke patient with a blood clot in the brain.

“Anybody that needs a procedure, that needs contrast dye, we’re going to have contrast dye for these patients,” Johnson said.

That’s because of mitigation strategies.

Johnson said they do about 1,300 CT Scans a week, using that contrast dye everyday.

“Our approach is going to be to reschedule CT scans in patients who a have elective exams scheduled that can afford to wait a couple of weeks without any significant harm to them,” Johnson said.

One woman tells FOX4 her scan has been pushed back four weeks. She said it’s scary.

“Its’ hard for everybody when they’re anxious about their health and they’re worried about getting their
diagnosis made and the process has to slow down,” VP of Medical Affairs at St. Luke’s Dr. Peter Holt said.

“I think the important piece is that when a patient has an emergency, they’re going to get taken care of. When it’s an elective procedure or non-emergent, or non-emergency procedures there may be some delays,” Holt said. “Patients will need to be patient as we work through the process of getting some of these authorizations, but the studies will get done and the patients will get taken care of.”

Holt said St. Luke’s has a similar approach: Prioritize patients with the greatest need and offer alternative imaging studies.

This shortage does not impact contrast dye used for MRIs, according to Johnson.

“What we provide to them might be different than what they’re used to. They may come in and say hey, last time I got this you did a CT scan, why aren’t you doing a CT scan,” Holt said. “Or they may say, gosh, if I can’t get a CT scan here, then I’m going to go to another hospital in KC and try to get a CT scan there and they need to understand. This is not a one hospital, one system issue. This is a global, national problem and we are in the same situation.”

Holt said metro hospitals are working together to conserve contrast material without compromising patient care.

“So, it’s a significant challenge for us to navigate,” Johnson said. “Now, the fortunate thing is that it’s temporary and hopefully after eight weeks, if we’re able to conserve the contrast dye, we’ll get back to our normal levels of contrast that are available.”

Doctors said this will probably take more conversations with your insurance company.

For example, explaining why a more expensive MRI was done, instead of a CT Scan.