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Side Effects of CT Scan with Contrast

Side Effects of CT Scan with Contrast

Before undergoing any medical procedure, it is important to know all about the possible side effects it may have on your body. In this article, we have discussed the possible adverse effects of a CT scan with contrast in great depth.
HealthHearty Staff
Last Updated: Mar 19, 2018
One is suggested to undergo a CT scan to diagnose medical problems within the bones, organs, soft tissues, and blood vessels that are hard to detect using conventional diagnostic methods. A CT Scan with contrast, also called a CAT scan, is a noninvasive medical test. It is used to produce multiple images of the internal body organs to diagnose cancer, cardiovascular disease, trauma, musculoskeletal disorders, etc.

Contrast agents, also called dyes, are used to highlight the organs, blood vessels, tissues, etc. As these dyes are injected or administered within the body, it may sometimes lead to certain side effects. In the following paragraphs, we shall understand more about this procedure and the side effects associated with it so that you can be mentally prepared for any unforeseen consequences.

Types of Contrast Used

There are 4 contrast agents or dyes that are most commonly used. These include:
  • Iodine
  • Barium
  • Barium sulfate
  • Gastrografin
Methods of Administering Contrast

The contrast agents are administered into the body of the patient using different methods. There are 3 ways through which a contrast is administered, and they have been briefly mentioned below:

Intravenous CT Scan Contrast
Intravenous contrast is injected into the body to highlight the organs, such as brain, spine, liver, and kidneys. An iodine contrast agent is mostly used for an intravenous injection.

Oral CT Scan Contrast
One needs to drink the oral CT scan contrast to highlight the images of the abdomen and pelvis region. There are 2 types of contrasts used, namely, barium sulfate (the most commonly used agent for a CT scan) and Gastrografin (sometimes used as a substitute for barium).

Rectal CT Contrast
The rectal CT contrast is administered using an enema to enhance the images of the large intestine and lower gastrointestinal organs. The contrasts used are same as oral contrast agents, barium sulfate, and Gastrografin.

The Possible Side Effects

Now, that you know the different contrast agents and the modes of their administration, we shall move on to the side effects. Although considered to be a safe and harmless diagnostic process, there are a few side effects of CT scan with contrast. It is always wise to know about these effects in order to seek immediate medical help if the need arises.

☛ Iodine is the choice of contrast to be injected intravenously. It is considered to be the safest contrast agent that does not cause any serious side effects. However, the person experiences a warm or flushed feeling upon being injected with this contrast. He/she may also experience a metallic taste in their mouth that lasts for about a minute or so.

☛ A few patients may also develop a mild itching around the body. This itching lasts for about a few minutes to few hours after being injected with the contrast solution. A patient may be injected with medications to treat the persistent itching.

☛ In extremely rare cases, one may suffer from serious allergic reactions, like breathing difficulty and swelling of the throat and other parts of the body. If one experiences an allergic reaction, one should contact the hospital ER immediately. Barium and Gastrografin contrasts are also considered to be safe and harmless.

☛ Side effects, if any, due to oral and rectal CT scan may include constipation and minor headache. One should be prepared to experience side effects, such as headache, fatigue, weakness, etc., after undergoing a CT scan with contrast. It is also important to watch out for serious side effects, like hives, rash, shortness of breath, etc.

Speak to your doctor regarding all the procedural details, possible side effects, and precautions you need to take before undergoing a CT scan. Also, make sure you inform the doctor about any of your existing medical conditions, like diabetes, allergies, pregnancy, etc. Take care!

Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.