Oral Contrast: Worth the Diagnostic Benefit?

When faced with the possibility of missed findings, would patients generally agree to consuming oral contrasts?

Most outpatients would accept drinking oral contrast material if it has diagnostic benefit, according to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

Researchers from University of Michigan in Ann Arbor performed a prospective survey to determine how patients valued the use of oral contrast material when undergoing abdominopelvic CT.

A total of 218 patients completed the survey, in which the subjects were given a hypothetical choice to not drink oral contrast. Eighty-nine percent of the subjects (193 patients) stated that they would always drink the contrast for fear of missing an important finding, and only 2% (5 patients) stated that they would never drink it regardless of risk.

Nine percent (20 patients) said that the decision to drink oral contrast would depend on the level of risk, with 8% (18 patients) indicating that they would accept a 0.01% to 1.00% risk for missing an important finding if they did not have to drink oral contrast.

The researchers also asked about the tolerability of the oral contrast; 55% (120 patients) rated the oral contrast taste as tolerable and 10% (21 patients) rated it bad or terrible.

Thirty-six subjects experienced concern or unease when they learned that they had to drink oral contrast:

8 minimal concern or unease

15 mild

10 moderate

3 extreme

Thirty-six patients experienced oral contrast–induced nausea or abdominal discomfort:

10 minimal

15 mild

10 moderate

1 extreme

The researchers concluded that most patients will drink oral contrast if it has any diagnostic benefit.