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Author Topic: How does barium compare with iodine as a contrast agent for CT scans?  (Read 10822 times)

Offline Travelguts

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I recently had a CT scan in France following abdominal pains. They used iodine as the contrast agent. We have hard copy and images on a CD. We also have a copy of the specialist's report (in French, but my partner is bilingual so translating is not a problem). This report says that nothing was found, neither cancer, nor diverticuli nor a hernia. Now we're back in the UK and our GP has diagnosed a hernia and suggested another scan with a barium enema. I'm anxious about this because (a) it means double the dose of radiation and (b) the barium enema is not pleasant and carries a small risk.

My questions are:

1. Does the barium contrast agent reveal anything that would not be revealed using iodine?
2. Is the second CT scan really necessary - can the UK specialist use the existing images and data?
3. Is the extra radiation exposure worth factoring into the consideration of whether the second scan is necessary?

Of course you cannot give specific advice about my condition or course of action: but in principle, what would the answers be?

Thanks.


 

Offline Bored chemist

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I think the difference isn't between barium and iodine, I think it's a matter of where you put it.
The radiation doses from scans and xrays are not really that big- I don't know what your medical problem is but I'm sure you will benefit from a good diagnosis more than you will suffer from the radiation.
In any event, your doctor is a doctor and I'm just some bloke on the 'net.
You should probably listen to the doctor.
 

Offline Evie

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From what I have found online, there is not a hugely significant difference in the quality of CT scans based on using iodine or barium. I found a paper saying that barium was better for general use, but for a combination of reasons including ease of administration, etc. The important thing to remember is that doctors can be wrong, and scans don't always show you what you need to know. I wouldn't worry about an additional CT scan being harmful due to radiation.


It is always good to get a second opinion, but ask your doctor lots of questions! Ask him why the other doctor said it wasn't a hernia and why he thinks it is. Ask about the barium/iodine thing. It's his job to make you as informed and comfortable about your treatment as possible.
 

Offline Travelguts

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Thanks to both of you for the quick and reassuring replies. I probably won't see the GP again before the barium enema, but I will go ahead with that now. My best guess about why the first guy didn't think it was a hernia is that the scan was done with me lying down and in that position I (think I) can feel that the hernia is not distended.
 

Offline debrenee

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 Iodine for use as a contrast agent in CT scans is NEPHROTOXIC, meaning that it is toxic to the kidneys especially in cases where multiple CT scans are utilized. In my opinion iodine should never be used in people with past or present kidney problems and always obtain a creatinine level beforehand. There is a drug (N-acetylcysteine) that has been shown to protect the kidneys from the nephrotoxic effects, it must be taken before the administration of iodine. In my experience it would be much better to use the barium or one of the other low iodine or iodine free contrast agents.  D.Smith LVN CCN
 

Offline debrenee

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 In answer to the question about a second CT scan being necessary: your specialist can and should look at you previous CT scan results if for no other reason than to see if there are any noticeable changes, I would request a different diagnostic procedure such as an ultrasound which is less invasive requires no contrast and shows the presence of any 'fluid buildup' among what most CT scans would reveal, before submitting to any type of invasive procedure these results could also be used in comparison with your existing CT scan for diagnostic purposes and involves no radiation, although unless you are pregnant the radiation exposure is insignificant.
 

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