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The Benefits of X-Ray Dye

Updated on February 26, 2011

Look at the comparison!

Look at the images to the right

Both of those images are CT Scans of the chest. They are two different people, but I want to point out something. The big grey blob in the middle is your heart. In the bottom picture, your big blobby heart is white! What has caused it? The administration of x-ray dye. In this article I will discuss the X-Ray dye that facilities around the United States uses and what you, as a patient, should know about it. If you are planning on having a CT exam soon, I recommend you check out my CT preparation article.

The Dye Facilities Use

Most facilities use either Isovue, Iopamidol, and Omnipaque. They all do pretty much the same thing, which is highlight the blood vessels in the body. They can also be used for other x-ray procedures such as an IVPs and Heart Catheters. Most of them do contain iodine, so be sure to let the technician know that you have an allergy.

Is X-Ray Dye safe?

Yes, Iodine is considered to be a safe contrast agent. It has been used for many years without serious side effects. Since it increases the visibility of target tissues on the images, the benefits are considered to outweigh the risks. However, you may feel some warmth, flushing feelings, a metallic taste in your mouth, and a feeling like you are urinating. It'll all go away in a couple minutes.

Make sure you let your doctor know if you are diabetic, have ever had brain bleeding, kidney failure, sickle cell anemia, multiple myeloma, or pheochromocytoma (an adrenal gland disorder).

Why Do I Need X-Ray Dye?

It's pretty simple, really. Radiologists cannot see certain disorders without it in your imaging. Look again to the picture on the right. Do you see those two arrows? Each one of those is a big ole' juicy pulmonary embolism. It's a blood clot, in the blood vessels of the lungs. It's the same thing as a stroke of the brain, a heart attack in the heart, and a deep vein thrombosis in the legs. And it can kill you.

In order to see the clot, the dye has to pass through the pulmonary arteries and veins. If you look at the pictures, the area is not as white as the heart is. That's because the dye isn't getting through to the other side, or at least very little is. This is just one example of why you absolutely need the dye during certain CT exams. By the way, the stuff to the left of the arrows are not pulmonary embolisms.

What if I'm allergic?

Hospitals may pre-medicate you as long as the reaction you have isn't serious. And if there is no way around it, typically there are other exams a doctor can order to diagnose you properly. Don't worry, there is normally a way around things in a hospital.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments, and I will answer them as soon as possible.


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    • nickshamrock profile image

      nickshamrock 7 years ago

      Heart conditions normally don't affect the use of the dye, at least not the dye used in CT scans. In fact, the dye is usually the same dye that they use in heart catherizations. It's generally kidney concerns that they have.

      Vicki, the dye won't make the tumor in your liver grow. The hospital/Dr. office will take blood tests to ensure your kidney function is working fine. If you have kidney failure, they can schedule the test around dialysis to make sure it all gets out of there.

      Miss Belgravia, I understand your concern, we get that a lot in our work. But in the 4 years that I've been working in this position, I've never seen a reaction worse than hives, and I've never seen any reaction with hospital prescribed Benadryl. I'm not saying to grab the Benadryl in your cupboard, but let the hospital know and they can give you prescription strength medicine or other medications to ensure you don't have a reaction. :)

    • profile image

      leorris whitfield  7 years ago

      my mother is a heart patient,and she can't take the dye for the test.can you give me another ave. she can take for this test.Thanking you in advance.

    • profile image

      vicki 7 years ago

      I am having a iodine cat scan xray to see lesions in my liver but worried about the dye and my kidneys and will it make the tumer grow that is in my liver

    • save my system profile image

      save my system 8 years ago from United Kingdom - London

      This is really a good hub which proves to be helpful in understanding concepts of X-rays. good information on X-ray dye. Looking forward for the CT preparation article

    • Money Glitch profile image

      Money Glitch 8 years ago from Texas

      Thanks for sharing your insight however, I'm like Miss Belgravia, that some people are highly allergic to iodine and I thought there was so other alternative now. Of course this is hear say on my part, I've never done direct research on this subject. However, Congrats on being nominated to the HubNuggets Wannabe Contest for this week. :)

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 8 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      This is a very useful hub and helps one understand esp. if you need to undergo a CT exam. Thanks! Also, this is to announce that you are a Hubnugget Wannabe! What's that? Follow me! Vote and promote and have fun with the Hubnuggets!

    • Miss Belgravia profile image

      Kathleen 8 years ago from Fort Worth, Texas

      I am highly allergic to iodine, and when it was suggested that I just take some Benedryl before having a scan, I passed. I think this aspect of using dyes is a big risk, and unfortunately, I was not offered any options. I'm really interested to learn the information in your hub, and I'll try again to find someone who will offer me some reasonable option other than just taking my chances with Benedryl. Thanks for writing your hub, and good luck in the Hubnuggets challenge!

    • shazwellyn profile image

      shazwellyn 8 years ago from Great Britain

      Well, at long last a writer who tells it as it is without the fluff! This really is a good hub and I have given it a thumbs up! Well done!