Helium shortage deflating businesses

LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - When you think of the helium shortage a lot of people may think of colorful party balloons.

But that is not the only thing impacted by the decreasing supply.

Helium is essential to be able to give patients MRI's.

Whether it's for filling balloons or giving MRI's, helium is in high demand.

"It's how the machine works, it needs to stay cool in order for it to be able to take the images,” said radiology technologist, Joni Rupe.

The helium used in the MR machine is a little different than the kind you get from a party store.

It is used in a liquid form at about -450 degrees Fahrenheit to cool the magnets that help it take the images you see on screen.

The U.S. is the world's largest supplier of helium but reserves have been depleted.

The gas is harvested from deep in the earth during natural gas processing.

"When there is a shortage, we are prioritized to have the helium, so we will have to pay at a higher cost,” said Rupe.

Rupe says they will continue to accommodate to the prices as they change.

That's something consumers will also have to do when it comes to buying balloons and helium tanks.

Party City employees tell 10/11 NOW they've seen a huge spike in price over the last month.

Two helium tanks you can take home have gone up $15-20.

Party City says once the helium runs out, they can't take any more orders.

But Rupe says with people coming in one after another, that's not an option for them.

"We have three MR scanners here, and they run from 6:30 in the morning until 8:00 at night, so we're very busy,” said Rupe.