How To Flush Out Contrast Dye
Contrast agents are used for many medical procedures. They’re injected into a patient’s vein and they help create clearer images on X-rays or other forms of diagnostic testing, like MRI’s. Some doctors use them when performing angioplasty (a procedure that opens up arteries). Injecting a small amount of contrast agent through a catheter inserted into a blood vessel allows radiologists to see what is happening inside the vessels more clearly. If there is damage to the artery wall, it can easily be seen with this technique.
In addition to helping physicians diagnose specific diseases, contrast agents also allow us to get better pictures of our bodies using various tests. For example, if we want to look at a particular area of the body, such as the liver, we may have to inject a special type of contrast agent. This helps show how organs function over time, especially if we follow them after taking certain medications. It’s important to remember that just because you receive a contrast agent doesn’t mean you’ll need surgery any time soon. However, if you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, it could be possible that you may require surgery very soon. With some types of cancers, such as breast or lung cancer, it is critical to know where tumor cells are growing so that we can determine whether they are malignant or benign.
One common way to administer contrast agents is intravenously, which means through a needle directly into a vein. Contrast agents come in different colors, from white to yellow to red. Each color has its own purpose. White agents are often administered before scanning or during scanning when looking at blood flow. Yellow agents are commonly used for coronary arterial studies. Red agents are most commonly used for abdominal angiography studies to view blood flow around the digestive tract. These agents include two chemicals called iopamidol and iohexol. Iodine based compounds like diatrizoic acid (Gadolinium) are also sometimes used for cardiovascular magnetic resonance imaging (CMR), which uses radio waves instead of x-rays.
There are three basic ways that these contrast agents work. First, each one contains iodine atoms. When they enter the bloodstream, these iodine atoms emit energy that creates a signal picked up by an electronic scanner. Second, all of the contrast agents contain sodium ions. As they pass through the kidneys, the kidneys excrete excess sodium, leaving behind less sodium in the blood stream. Less sodium equals lower blood pressure. Finally, the contrast agents cause the blood vessels to contract, which makes the blood vessels appear larger than normal. Therefore, although the contrast agents do not actually clot the blood, they do make the veins and arteries appear thicker in the image created by the scan.
Depending on the type of procedure being performed, there may be certain precautions that must be taken. For instance, if you are getting a contrast agent for a heart exam, then you must fast for four hours prior to the test. You cannot eat anything but clear liquids like water, juice and tea. Also, you shouldn’t take aspirin or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, naproxen or celebrex 24 hours before the exam. Certain medicines, including those used to control high blood pressure, can affect the contrast agent as well. Make sure to tell your doctor about any prescription medicine you might be currently taking.
While receiving a contrast agent isn’t dangerous per se, there are risks involved. One concern centers on allergic reactions. Allergic reactions occur when the immune system mistakes something in the body as harmful and attacks it. An allergy happens when white blood cells attack mast cells, causing swelling and inflammation. We call these “type 1” allergies. A second kind, known as a “type 2” allergy, occurs when white blood cells attack tissues rather than mast cells. For both kinds of allergies, symptoms include hives, sneezing, runny nose, itching, wheezing, nausea, flushing, vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, chest pain, throat tightness, dry mouth, headache and fever. People with sensitive skin or who have had previous allergic reactions to contrast dyes are at greater risk for developing allergies.
Another problem can happen when people who have diabetes are given a contrast agent. Glucose levels drop temporarily due to the effects of the contrast agent. Diabetics whose blood sugar drops too low can become hypoglycemic, meaning their blood sugar level falls dangerously low. If left untreated, hypoglycemia can lead to seizures and even death. Diabetic patients who receive a contrast agent should always check their blood sugar levels before and after the exam. Patients should keep track of their glucose levels and inform their doctor if they notice a significant change.
The last issue involves kidney problems. Because contrast agents increase the viscosity of the blood, they slow down the movement of waste products through the kidneys. Kidneys don’t filter wastes effectively while the blood is thickened by the contrast agents. Overload of toxins in the urine can result in kidney failure. In order to prevent this, patients should limit their intake of fluids. Women who are pregnant must avoid having contrast agents or iodinated ones specifically. Men should also avoid having iodinated contrast agents.
It is important to note that no matter how much care is taken, side effects can still occur. If you experience a reaction following an examination using a contrast agent, contact your health provider immediately. Side effects can be mild or severe. Most reactions resolve themselves without treatment; however, others may require immediate attention.
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