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Posted on March 8th, 2013, by

Today, the use of contrast media in CT scans is widely-spread, although health care professionals keep debating over the impact of contrast media on human health. In actuality, there are many studies dedicated to the problem of numerous dangers and possible negative impact of contrast medium used in CT scans on human health, among which it is possible to single out “Risk Reduction From Low Osmolality Contrast Media What Do Patients Think It is Worth?”¯ by L.J. Appel and other researchers (1990), which focused on the impact of the new low osmolality contrast media on patients’ health and the attitude of patients and health care professionals to the new contrast media. Even though the authors conclude their research with the open debate leaving up to patients and health care professionals to decide whether to choose the new low osmolality contrast media or not, but the study still reveals the full extent to which the use of contrast media in CT scans is uncertain and potentially dangerous because the study reveals the fact that the use of contrast media may have negative side-effects, such as nausea, flushing, renal insufficiency or nephropathy and others, to the extent that side-effects may lead to the death of patients.

In actuality, nearly ten million radiographic procedures involving the injection of contrast media are performed annually in the United States (Appel et al, 1990). Obviously, the large number of CT scans implies the use of contrast media, which are used a month before a CT scan and shortly after the CT scan. At this point, the effects of contrast media on patients become extremely important because, potentially, contrast media, including low osmolality contrast media, may have negative side-effects, which may vary from nausea and flushing to allergic reactions and nephropathy leading to the death of patients. At this point, it is important to place emphasis on the fact that the researchers (Appel et al, 1990) argue that even the low osmolality contrast media may be dangerous to human health and have negative side-effects. However, they point out that the risk of negative side-effects after using low osmolality contrast media is much lower compared to conventional contrast media (Appel et al, 1990). In fact, the authors (Appel et al, 1990) argue that low osmolality contrast media has a minimal risk of gross side-effects, such as nephropathy or allergic reactions that may provoke the death of patients.

In this regard, the authors refer to studies conducted by other researchers and point out that during these radiographic studies, such as cardiac catheterization and contrast-enhanced computerized tomography (CT scans), the injection of a liquid contrast agent allows physicians to visualize body organs otherwise invisible on x-rays (Appel et al, 1990). In such a way, the use of contrast media in CT scans seems to be essential because CT scans may be ineffective. Therefore, health care professionals and patients face a dilemma whether to choose contrast media or to obtain uncertain results of CT scans or to fail to obtain any results of CT scans, which may be obtained only with the help of contrast media. In such a situation, patients are often in-between because in both cases their health is at stake. They have either to choose using contrast media in CT scans or to refuse from CT scans, which apparently complicates diagnosing and treatment. As a result, patients normally choose contrast media, although as Appel (1990) argues they are not ready to pay more for new contrast media.

The study conducted by Appel and other researchers (1990) proved that compared with conventional high osmolality contrast media (HOM), LOM reduce the risk of minor ad- verse reactions, such as flushing and nausea. At the same time, this new contrast media is more expensive and patients are not always ready to pay more, even if they are conscious of the possibility of having lower risks associated with the new contrast media. In this regard, low osmolality contrast media may have such negative effects as nausea or flushing, whereas the risk of nephropathy is consistently lower compared to conventional contrast media.

However, the researchers (Appel et al, 1990) still argue that controlled clinical trials have yet to demonstrate whether LOM reduce the risk of clinically significant complications, such as severe allergic reactions and death. Therefore, even when patients and health care professionals choose LOM as the contrast media in CT scans, they can never be certain that patients will not suffer from some negative side-effects caused by the contrast media.

Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is important to place emphasis on the fact that the use of contrast media in CT scans is still associated with numerous risks and dangerous side effects, such as nausea but, in the most severe cases, contrast media can provoke severe allergic reactions and cause the death of patients. Therefore, the contrast media can be potentially dangerous for patients but often they have to use contrast media. Otherwise, CT scans may be ineffective. In such a situation, patients are still at risk of suffering from negative side-effects of contrast media and the modern medicine cannot offer them any safe alternative.

 
References
Appel, L.J. et al. (April 1990). “Risk Reduction From Low Osmolality Contrast Media What Do Patients Think It is Worth?”¯ Medical Care, 28(4), pp.324-337.
White, R.I. & Halden, W.J. (1986). “Liquid gold: low-osmolaity contrast media.”¯ Radiology, 159, p.559.
Wolf, G.F. (1986). “Safer, more expensive iodinated contrast agents: how do we decide? Radiology, 159, p.557.

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