We at Medicover Hospital often get questions regarding a substance called contrast medium or contrast agent. There are several types of contrast agents used in modern medicine, all of them has a different purpose.
The most common contrast agents are the ones used for MRI and CT scans. Often, when people need a scan for confirming an illness or a musculoskeletal issue they receive MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or CT (computed tomography) from a radiologist doctor.
However, there are times when it’s necessary to enhance the image taken by these machines with the usage of contrast agents. A lot of misinformation and fear surrounds these materials which we’re trying to clarify now.
1. Contrast agent will make you feel sick
Will you get headaches or any other side effects from it? This is probably the most common question we receive. While it definitely can happen, side effects are much rarer than you would think. Occasionally, after receiving the contrast agent (either through IV or drinking it) you can feel a warm sensation in your body or you might feel itchy and nauseous. As you can see these are pretty mild symptoms and the outcome of the examination outweighs the inconveniences. At Medicover Hospital we can treat even these mild side effects with appropriate care and medicine so you will be in safe hands from the beginning till the very end.
2. I can’t take my medications before getting a contrast MRI or CT scan
Based on the type of scan you’ll be getting, you might be given contrast agent too. When this is the case you should fast before the examination, meaning you should not eat or drink 4-6 hours prior the scan. This is for your own good, because if the contrast material makes you nauseous, food in your stomach only makes it worse.
However, you should take the medications you take every day, except drugs for diabetes. If you’re diabetic you should consult your doctor beforehand.
3. The image will be only sharp if they use contrast dye
People often think that only if you’ll be given contrast agent, then will be the examination perfect, and the results are reliable. Even though contrast materials are essential in some cases, like observing the gastrointestinal tract in detail, there are situations where the native examination is more than enough to discover the underlying problem.
4. I get the same contrast material for CT and MRI
When we refer to contrast MRI, CT or even x-rays we tend to think this contrast agent is the same in either cases. However, since these are all based on a different mechanism they need a different contrast medium to help them by enhancing the image.
5. Anyone can receive contrast scans
Getting a contrast scan is useful in determining what illness might cause your problems however it is not for everyone. As every medication and chemical substance come with some side-effects on your body, contrast agents also can cause negative reactions.
There are special circumstances (for example if your kidneys aren’t functioning properly) when this type of examination is contraindicated. It’s always your doctor’s job to determine whether the positive outcomes of the scan outweigh the negative ones. This is why we, at Medicover Hospital order bloodwork before a contrast CT or MRI.