MITA Replies to USGS Request for Information on Helium Supply Risk

Mar 16, 2023, 11:15 AM

Washington, D.C. – The Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance (MITA) – the leading trade association representing manufacturers of medical imaging equipment, radiopharmaceuticals, contrast media, and focused ultrasound therapeutic devices – has submitted comments in response to the United States Geological Survey (USGS) request for information regarding risks to the current supply of helium.

In its letter, MITA highlighted that a reliable helium supply is critical for the operation of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology, a medical imaging device that plays an essential role in advanced medical research and patient care for serious medical conditions, including cancer, orthopedic injuries, heart disease, and neurological degeneration.

Helium is needed for periodic maintenance throughout the lifecycle of an MRI machine, as it creates the conditions needed for superconductivity in the device’s strong magnet. The United States currently has over 10,000 MRI systems installed, each requiring, on average, approximately 2,000 liters of liquid helium that must be periodically replenished. If issues such as helium leakage arise in the machine, the system’s helium must be entirely replaced.

“Over the past decade, geopolitical challenges, climate change, privatization of the nation’s helium reserves, and an increase in demand have created shortages in the helium supply chain,” said Patrick Hope, executive director, MITA. “These challenges have resulted in high costs that threaten the healthcare industry’s ability to install new MRI systems and service the existing installed base.”

The tremendous expense of replenishing an MRI’s helium sometimes necessitates that the device be temporarily or permanently mothballed, leaving patients without access to this critical medical tool.

The letter acknowledged that although the medical device industry is creating innovative MRI technology that requires less helium, the medical sector will continue to require adequate helium quantities at a reasonable cost. To ensure that patients can access MRI technology, MITA recommended that policymakers earmark helium supplies for purchase.

To read MITA’s full comments, click here.


The Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance (MITA), a division of NEMA, is the collective voice of medical imaging equipment manufacturers, innovators, and product developers. It represents companies whose sales comprise more than 90 percent of the global market for advanced medical imaging technology. For more information, visit Follow MITA on Twitter @MITAToday.