Body scans are extremely useful in diagnosing health conditions, but many work better with a contrast dye or other substance. If you ever had to have a CT scan, X-ray, or ultrasound, you may have been required to use a contrast agent.
So, what are contrast agents and how are these substances used in diagnostic imaging? There are many contrast agents available, each with its own profile and designated use for a particular diagnostic test.
What Are Contrast Agents?
Diagnostic scans use different types of imaging techniques to create a picture of your internal structures and tissue. Certain substances can enhance the visibility of these structures and tissue – these are contrast agents. These substances are administered just prior to an imaging procedure, typically by injection or as a liquid that is swallowed, depending on the type of imaging procedure, body area being scanned, and suspected health problem.
The type of test typically determines the contrast agent you can use. For example, diagnostic tests that target the gastrointestinal tract use materials based on barium sulfate, which is consumed orally. Iodine-based agents, on the other hand, are injected and used for X-ray and CT scans. Ultrasound scans benefit from microbubble contrast materials, which can adequately reflect ultrasonic waves.
As its name suggests, contrast agents work by increasing the contrast between different types of body tissue. Higher contrast levels mean that doctors are better able to distinguish and identify abnormalities within tissue. Without a contrast agent, diagnostic images may be blurry and indistinct, making an accurate medical diagnosis by your doctor more difficult.
Safety of Contrast Agents
Contrast agents do not significantly affect any of your bodily processes. After the imaging test is complete, the contrast agents are processed by your body and ultimately excreted.
The sole purpose of contrast agents is to improve the quality of diagnostic images. That said, some people may experience certain odd sensations as the agent is administered. For example, iodine-based agents tend to produce a temporary metallic taste in the mouth.
Contrast agents are safe. However, some people may have allergies to components of the substance used. In these cases, allergic reactions may range from nausea and itching to breathing difficulties and low blood pressure. Make sure to mention any allergies you have, or other medical conditions, to your doctor so that the appropriate contrast agent is selected for your imaging procedure.
Those with damaged kidneys may have some difficulty naturally eliminating the contrast agents. In some cases, iodine-based agents may further weaken the damaged kidneys. Consult your doctor about this, who can help you properly weigh the importance of the procedure against any potential risks associated with the procedure or contrast substance used.
Safe and Effective Diagnostic Imaging in Palm Beach County
When diagnostic imaging includes a wide variety of contrast agents, you’ll want to be sure you’re dealing with the best professionals in the field. The imaging professionals at Independent Imaging in Palm Beach County, Florida, can help you get good imaging results. With more than 30 years of diagnostic imaging expertise, you will be in safe and capable hands. Call us at (561) 795-5558 or schedule your appointment now.