Diagnostic imaging has advanced medicine in countless ways since the first X-ray was taken in 1895. Regardless of the amount of experience and intuition a physician had, not being able to see inside a patient’s body limited the ability to accurately and quickly diagnose conditions that are routinely determined by medical imaging today. The accuracy of these tests and the knowledge they convey can be greatly enhanced by the addition of contrast material.
Some diagnostic imaging systems use radiation to show the inside of your body, like X-rays and computed tomography (CT) scans, and others use magnetic fields and/or sound waves like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound.
Contrast dye is a substance that allows a radiologist to see the internal structure of concern in greater detail by making it more visible against the background of other tissues. When imaging is taken using a contrast dye, the scans may better represent organs, ligaments, tendons, blood vessels, bones, or nerves.
The dye is either ingested orally (usually in the form of a drink) or injected. If your doctor recommends a scan with contrast, it may extend the total time for testing to accommodate the time it takes for the contrast material to become absorbed before the scan.
X-Rays and CT Scans with Contrast Dye
The type of contrast dye used and the way a patient takes it into the body depends on the structure being scanned and the type of energy used by the scanner. For imaging that utilizes ionized radiation (such as X-rays and CT scans), the contrast compounds include iodine and barium sulfate. These substances interfere with the passage of X-rays, resulting in how the target tissues appear in the image. Most diagnoses made with a CT scan are aided with the use of a contrast dye. Exceptions include conditions involving calcifications that are easier to see in the absence of contrast.
MRI with Contrast Dye
Magnetic scans interact with contrast dye made from a substance called gadolinium. This contrast material is injected prior to your MRI scan. About one-third of all MRIs taken include contrast as part of the test. Certain disorders are easier to diagnose with the contrast, including neurological conditions. Doctors can see blood moving through your vessels with the aid of a contrast MRI and see some heart structures with much greater accuracy. These dyes are designed to be safely and naturally excreted by the body after your test.
Contrast dyes are considered very safe and most people have no discomfort or side effects following their imaging tests that utilize a contrast material. There is a slight chance the patient is allergic to a component of the contrast agent; be sure to tell your doctor about any history of allergies before your test. Although there is no evidence of harm to a fetus, the use of a contrast dye is usually not recommended for patients who are pregnant.
Independent Imaging of Palm Beach County, Florida, performs MRIs, CT scans, and many other diagnostic imaging tests. We are known for our expertise and open and prompt communication of results to your doctor. Call (561) 795-5558 for an appointment at any of our convenient locations.