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General Info

What are contrast materials and how do they work?
Contrast materials, also called contrast agents or contrast media, are used to improve pictures of the inside of The body produced by x-rays, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance (MR) imaging, and ultrasound. Often, contrast materials allow the radiologist to distinguish normal from abnormal conditions.
Contrast materials are not dyes that permanently discolor internal organs. They are substances that Temporarily change the way x-rays or other imaging tools interact with the body.

Which imaging exams use contrast materials?
Oral Contrast Materials
Barium-sulfate contrast materials that are swallowed or administered by mouth (orally) are used to enhance x-Ray and CT images of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, including:

  • Pharynx
  • Esophagus
  • Stomach
  • The small intestine
  • The large intestine (colon)

In some situations, iodine-based contrast materials are substituted for barium-sulfate contrast materials for Oral administration.

Rectal Contrast Materials
Barium-sulfate contrast materials that are administered by enema (rectally) are used to enhance x-ray and CT Images of the lower gastrointestinal (GI) tract (colon and rectum).
In some situations, iodine-based contrast materials are substituted for barium-sulfate contrast materials for Rectal Administration.

Intravenous Contrast Materials
Iodine-based contrast materials injected into a vein (intravenously) are used to enhance x-ray and CT Images. Gadolinium injected into a vein (intravenously) is used to enhance MR images. Typically they are used to Enhance the:

  • Internal organs, including the heart, lungs, liver, adrenal glands, kidneys, pancreas, gallbladder, spleen, Uterus, and bladder
  • Gastrointestinal tract, including the stomach, small intestine and large intestine
  • Arteries and veins of the body, including vessels in the brain, neck, chest, abdomen, pelvis and legs
  • Soft tissues of the body, including the muscles, fat and skin
  • Brain
  • Breast

How should I prepare for my imaging procedure with contrast material?

  • You should tell your doctor about:
    • Allergies to contrast materials, food, drugs, dyes, preservatives, or animals
    • Medications you are taking, including herbal supplements
    • Recent illnesses, surgeries, or other medical conditions
    • History of asthma and hay fever
    • History of heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, thyroid problems or sickle cell anemia
  • A very small percentage of patients may develop a delayed reaction with a rash which can occur hours To days after an imaging exam with an iodine-based contrast material. Severe rashes may require Medication after discussion with your physician.
  • Patients with impaired kidney (renal) function should be given special consideration before receiving Iodine-based contrast materials by vein or artery
  • Some conditions increase the risk of an allergic or adverse reaction to iodine-based contrast materials. These include:
    • Previous adverse reactions to iodine-based contrast materials
    • History of asthma
    • History of allergy
    • Heart disease
    • Dehydration
    • Sickle cell anemia, polycythemia and myeloma
    • Renal disease
    • The use of medications such as Beta blockers, NSAIDs, interleukin 2
    • Having received a large amount of contrast material within the past 24 hours
  • Very rarely, patients are allergic to gadolinium-based contrast materials and experience hives and itchy eyes.
  • Nephrogenic systemic fibrosis (NSF), a thickening of the skin, organs and other tissues, is a rare complication in patients with kidney disease that undergo an MR with contrast material. Gadolinium-based contrast material may be withheld in some patients with severe kidney disease .