Since the development of the X-ray in 1895, advances in technology have pushed the medical field to take great strides forward. With the advent of diagnostic imaging scans that allow doctors to “see” inside of a person’s body, technology can now diagnose conditions and pinpoint treatments to the affected body part with absolute precision.
There are four major imaging scans used for medical testing: the X-ray, CT scan, MRI, and ultrasound. The use of contrast agents with these scans makes imaging so much more precise, as certain compounds injected into the human body can either block or reveal extra data to help doctors make a diagnosis.
Types of Contrast Agents
Contrast agents vary from test to test, so there is no dye that works across all of them. The agent is dictated by the structure being scanned, the type of scan, and the condition for which the scan is done.
Imaging that utilizes ionized radiation, like an X-ray or CT scan, uses either iodine or barium sulfate. These elements interfere with the X-ray’s penetration and affect how targeted tissues appear on the scan.
For an MRI, a patient is injected with a contrast agent called gadolinium. Nearly a full third of all MRIs use contrast as a testing requirement. Certain conditions, like neurological illnesses, are far easier to diagnose with contrast agents.
Patients getting an ultrasound may be given a micro-bubble contrast agent, which is tiny bubbles of a gas, held within a supporting shell. This material creates a strong echo signal that differentiates between surrounding tissues and the target, producing a stronger image with ultrasound.
Factors That Inhibit Contrast Use
Contrast agents are generally considered benign and are designed to pass through the body within a day or so, leaving no traces behind. However, in some situations, contrast agents may need to be avoided.
Certain medical conditions may require special attention before use of a contrast agent. Kidney disorders can cause difficulty expelling testing agents. Some people have allergies to certain contrast agents. A person’s overall health also matters, as some agents may counteract medications a person is taking, and recent surgeries could make a patient more sensitive.
Generally, any issue arising from contrast is relatively harmless, but if there might be some sort of reaction, always check with the doctor who ordered a scan before getting it done. If you are considered at-risk with contrast material, it may not preclude you from having the imaging – you just may need to take certain precautions.
Professional Diagnostic Imaging in Palm Beach County
The next time a doctor orders a test for you, you can count on high-quality, accurate testing from Independent Imaging. Our radiologists are board-certified and fellowship-trained, to ensure that your doctor gets quality imaging that helps with your diagnosis.
If your doctor has recommended any type of imaging scan, you can request an appointment online, or call us at (561) 795-5558.