1 Radiopaque Agent - Diagnostic (Oral Route, Rectal Route, Intravenous Route, Intra-Arterial Route, Intraspinal Route): A Summary

Brand name:

Cystografin, Cystografin-Dilute, Feridex IV, Gastrografin, Glofil-125, Hypaque Meglumine, Hypaque Sodium, MD-Gastroview, Multihance, Perchloracap, Renocal-76, and Sinografin.

Radiopaque agents contain iodine that absorbs x-rays. This makes radiopaque agents one of the best tools to use in diagnosing a number of medical conditions.

When these agents are administered in a particular part of the body, it accumulates and an image of that area can be visualized through x-ray.

They can be used to diagnose the following:

  • biliary tract problems
  • blood vessel diseases of the heart and the brain
  • brain diseases and tumors
  • breast lesions
  • heart disease
  • impaired flow of cerebrospinal fluid
  • kidney diseases
  • joint diseases
  • liver diseases
  • pancreas disease
  • spleen diseases
  • spinal disk diseases
  • stomach and intestinal problems
  • urinary tract problems

The administration of radiopaque agents depends on the area to be examined. It should only be administered by a physician or a trained healthcare professional.

It comes in a number of forms include solutions, capsules, tablets, suspensions, and powders for suspension.

2 What to Know Before Using

Weigh the benefits and risks associated with getting diagnostic exams that use radiopaque agents. You need to consider a number of factors before deciding to use these diagnostic agents.

Make sure you tell your physician about your allergies (to food, animals, preservatives, dyes, and medications) if you have any. The use of radiopaque agents in children with certain medical conditions can increase the risk of adverse reactions.

Radiopaque agents should also be used with caution in geriatric patients because they can be more sensitive to their effects. Pregnant women should not get x-rayed because radiation can have harmful effects on the fetus.

There are agents that have not been found to cause harm. These include iohexol, iothalamate, iopamidol, ioxaglate, ioversol, and metrizamide.

However, diatrizoates have, in rare cases, caused harmful effects on the unborn child. Nursing mothers may have to stop breastfeeding for a while after receiving radiopaque agents.

These agents must be used cautiously in patients with the hepato-renal syndrome, acute/chronic severe kidney problems, history of allergies (asthma, hay fever), severe high blood pressure, pheochromocytoma, liver disease, multiple myelomas, overactive thyroid, sickle cell disease, and type 2 diabetes mellitus.

3 Proper Usage

Follow your doctor’s instructions. He/she may prescribe certain preparatory measures. Depending on the kind of diagnostic exam you will undergo, your physician may tell you to have a special diet or use a laxative a few hours or days before the exam.

You may also be asked to fast for a few hours prior to the procedure. For hemodialysis patients who received a gadolinium-based contrast agent, you may be prescribed a dialysis session immediately after the diagnostic procedure.

If you were not given special instructions, check again with your physician. The strength and amount of contrast agent administered will depend on your age, the type of exam you will undergo, and the equipment to be used.

As mentioned earlier, radiopaque agents should be administered by a trained medical professional or a doctor. If the medical team needs to find out if you have diseases concerning the head, spinal canal, and nervous system, the contrast agent is injected into the spinal canal.

A radiopaque agent can also be administered into the bladder and ureters by using a catheter. This is done when doctors need to find out if you have urinary tract and kidney problems.

Different diagnostic procedures use different methods. Ask your health care provider to explain the procedure beforehand.

4 Precautions to Take

Watch out for adverse reactions associated with radiopaque agents. One of these reactions is nephrogenic systemic fibrosis which involves fibrosis of joints, eyes, skin, and internal organs.

This is usually caused by exposure to gadolinium-based contrast agents in patients with severe kidney failure.

You need to seek medical attention immediately if you notice the following symptoms:

  • skin swelling
  • burning/itching of the skin
  • reddened/darkened patches
  • yellow raised spots on the whites of the eyes
  • limited range of motion in the arms and legs
  • joint stiffness
  • hip bone or rib pain
  • muscle weakness

Also, inform your physician if you need to get thyroid tests several weeks from your diagnostic exam. The iodine from the radiopaque agents can affect this kind of procedure.

5 Potential Side Effects

There are a number of side effects that are related to radiopaque agents. Different diagnostic exams can have different side effects.

If the agent was injected into your spinal canal, serious effects include hallucinations and paralysis. These need immediate medical attention.

For intravenous contrast agents, unusual warmth and flushing of the skin may occur. Oral and rectal radiopaque agents can have a laxative effect.

For full details of the different side effects, you should consult your physician.

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