Hello! I’m Dr. Geoffrey Rubin, a radiologist at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. In this short video I’ll describe contrast materials, which are used in radiology procedures.
Contrast materials are given to patients before some radiology imaging exams to highlight features in the image and help radiologists diagnose medical conditions.
We use several types of contrast materials, including:
Iodine-based and barium-based compounds, which are used in x-ray and computed tomography or CT imaging exams;
For MRI or magnetic resonance, we use gadolinium
And for ultrasound exams, sometimes we use saline and air as contrast materials.
Depending on the type of exam, contrast materials may be administered by mouth or by IV or intravenous injection. They help distinguish or “contrast” selected areas inside the body and improve the visibility of specific organs, blood vessels or tissues. Following the exam, the material is absorbed and eliminated by the body.
You may have some concerns about contrast materials.
Because contrast materials carry a slight risk of causing an allergic or adverse reaction, you should inform your doctor about any prior allergies regardless whether they were from other medicines, foods or irritants. It might also be helpful to explain about recent illnesses, surgeries, medical conditions, and medications that you are currently taking, including herbal supplements.
If you are receiving an iodine injection, then after the injection you may experience warmth through your body for 20 to 30 seconds.
If you receive gadolinium for an MRI, then you’re unlikely to feel anything at all and the injection will likely pass unnoticed.
If your exam requires you to drink a barium shake, it is possible that you will experience mild side effects such as stomach cramps, diarrhea or constipation. However, most people have no side effects from drinking barium. Tell your doctor if you experience these or other symptoms.
To learn more about contrast materials, visit us at Radiology Info dot org.