The Benefits of X-Ray Dye
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.