December 1, 2022
Despite concerns that helium shortages could adversely affect MRI use, experts say there is no need to worry as suppliers are prioritizing deliveries to medical applications and critical infrastructure. I’m here.
The world won’t run out of helium anytime soon — despite recent news reports — nor will the neurologists interviewed Neurology Today I am concerned about the potential impact on the use of MRI.
Interviews and emails with neurologists, research scientists, and long-time experts in the liquid helium industry found nothing to corroborate NBC News’ Oct. 22 report. This is why doctors are concerned. “
A temporary shortage of helium caused by various supply chain disruptions has pushed up prices and reduced deliveries to many businesses and universities. However, according to interviews with neuroimaging experts, the impact of the shortage on neurologists, neuroscientists or patients has been minimal as suppliers prioritize delivery of medical applications and critical infrastructure. .
Kornbluth Helium Consulting President Phil Kornbluth said: “And everyone is definitely paying more for helium. But…Nuclear power plants that use helium for cooling get all the helium they need. And MRI is high on the list.”
Most US MRIs require about 2,000 liters of liquid helium at a time to keep the powerful magnets as close to absolute zero as possible.
The amount of helium under the surface will eventually run out, and so will the supply of oil and natural gas, but that day remains in the distant future, Kornbluth said.
“The world is not running out of helium,” he said. “Most of it is produced as a by-product of processing natural gas. When the world hits peak natural gas supply, we might start thinking about helium peaking. But we’re still a long way from that,” he said. rice field.
Dr. Stefan Posse, a professor of neurology at the University of New Mexico, said neither he nor his colleagues have ever run out of liquid helium for use in MRIs.
“In the event of a crisis, my attention will be drawn to it,” said Dr. Posse, director of the university’s Human MR Imaging Laboratory, which specializes in developing new diagnostic MRI methods for characterizing the human brain. says. “I haven’t heard any concerns from my colleagues. The shortage has been mentioned at international conferences. But it’s not a crisis.”
lack of context
There is no doubt that the fourth global helium shortage since 2006 began in January of this year. Some of the liability can be traced back to a 1996 federal law that changed the policy set in 1925 to maintain an underground stockpile known as the federal helium stockpile. BLM) was required by the end of 2013 to sell to private companies all but a small permanent supply, which at the time represented about 40% of the country’s helium demand.
That year, Congress passed the Helium Stewardship Act, signed by President Obama, to forestall a collapse of the helium market. This slowed the sale down to his 10% of annual inventory reserves from 2015.
Since then, BLM supply has been steadily declining, but temporary hiatus over the past two years played a major role in contributing to the current supply shortage. But other causes also play a role, Kornbluth said.
The war in Ukraine was a ‘very small factor’, but a bigger one was a fire at a new Russian gas processing plant that delayed the planned start-up of the current supply of a third of the world’s helium. supply. Another fire at a gas processing plant in Kansas required a maintenance outage at two of his plants in Qatar. In addition, Algeria’s natural gas supply was diverted to undersea pipelines, making it impossible to extract helium, which makes up about 1% of the gas.
Kornbluth said he doesn’t expect the current shortage to be resolved until mid-to-late 2023. “Nine to 12 months may be more realistic.”
who is affected
Clearly, some academic institutions were aware of the impending helium shortage. On March 9, the University of California, Davis issued a warning that one of his helium suppliers is cutting supply to the campus by 65% of his previous year’s levels. Another supplier was cutting deliveries in half.
“Potentially, supplies may not return to 100 percent until 2023,” the warning said. I recommend that you do.”
Harvard Crimson issued a similar report on June 24, noting that university supply had fallen to 50% of normal. As a result, physics experiments have been greatly reduced.
However, Sarah Lynn Elwell, associate dean for research in the Harvard School of Arts and Sciences, said in an email: Neurology Today The MRI used at the Brain Science Center was “not affected by the helium shortage.” Also, Cameron S. Carter, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of California, Davis, and C. Bryan of his Cameron Chair of Neuroscience, said in an email, “There was no impact on our operations.”
Similarly, at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, no effect was found by professor.
“We don’t see a shortage right now,” said M. Mahesh, MS, PhD, a medical physicist radiologist and professor of radiology who published a paper on the then-ongoing helium shortage in 2016. I’m here. “It just went up in price”
Dr. Mahesh saw shortages ten years ago that led to rationing, but he said there is no such crisis going on now.
“Nobody warns hospitals that they have to start distributing helium,” he added.
Rather than a bleak future, Dr. Mahesh says the newest MRI machines available use significantly less helium than older machines. Efforts are also underway to capture and recycle the helium that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere, he said.
“It’s all good news,” Dr. Mahesh said. “This shortage is a temporary problem. I don’t think it will accelerate in the coming months.