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Contrast Agents & Labs

Contrast agents or contrast media, are used to improve CT and MRI images. Often, contrast materials allow the radiologist to distinguish normal from abnormal conditions.

  • Our radiologists carefully evaluate each patient’s condition and medical history to determine the need for IV contrast media.  Common exams that require contrast are CT and MRI scans.
  • Contrast can be used to improve the clarity of CT and MRI images, but isn’t always necessary.
  • Call our Radiologist Hotline at 919-788-7880 x 1 if you have questions about contrast.
CT Contrast & Creatinine Ordering Guidelines
  • Contrast can be used to improve the clarity of CT images, but isn’t always necessary.
    • Non-ionic, iodinated contrast is the medium used at WakeRad UNC REX.
  • Add “contrast as medically indicated by the radiologist” on the imaging order to enable us to administer CT contrast when necessary.
    • This ensures patients are exposed to the least amount of radiation possible.
    • Contrast is typically used when imaging for cancer, cancer progression, inflammation, infection or abscess, lymphadenopathy or pulmonary embolism.
    • Contrast is also administered when asked to surveil acute abdominal pain and review abdominal organs.
  • Call our Body Imaging Physician Hotline at 919-788-7978 if you have questions about contrast.

Creatinine Labs

  • A current creatinine level is required before a CT with contrast exam can be performed.
  • WakeRad UNC REX can complete this lab work in our office on the same day of the patient’s exam. We use an iSTAT device to obtain a patient’s creatinine level. This ensures accurate lab levels and that the CT exam is performed safely and efficiently.
  • Order “Draw for Creatinine levels if medically needed” when you order a CT exam for any patient that meets the criteria below.

MRI Contrast & Creatinine Ordering Guidelines
  • Unless recommended by a radiologist, MRI exams are performed either “without contrast” or “without and with contrast.”

    • Our radiologists use patient notes and medical history to determine the need for contrast.

    • Contrast can be used to enhance the clarity of images, but isn’t always necessary.

  • One exception: All MRI arthrograms should be ordered “with contrast.”

  • Call our MRI Physician Hotline at 919-788-7978 if you have questions about contrast.

With Contrasts

  • An MRI with contrast provides detailed views of organs and their function, inflammation, tumors or blood flow and supply.
  • Contrast can provide more details to help diagnose and stage diseases.
  • During an MRI with contrast, the patient is injected with the contrast media which works with the MRI’s electromagnet to create a sharper image.
  • MRE patients will receive both oral and intravenous contrast to enhance the images.
  • MRI contrast media does not contain iodine and rarely causes allergic reactions.
  • MRI arthrograms should always be ordered “with contrast.”

Without Contrasts

  • Most MRI exams are performed without contrast.
  • Non-contrast exams provide better images of blood vessel activity, aneurysms and blocked blood vessels.
  • Most orthopedic and joint MRI exams do not need contrast.
  • Sometimes when a “without contrast” study is being performed, our radiologists may determine – during the exam – that contrast would help produce clearer images. If this is the case, we will immediately contact the ordering provider for an updated order.

Creatinine Labs

  • A current creatinine level may be required before an MRI with contrast exam can be performed.
  • WakeRad UNC REX can complete this lab work in our office on the same day of the patient’s exam. We use an iSTAT device to obtain a patient’s creatinine level. This ensures accurate lab levels and that the MRI exam is performed safely and efficiently.
  • Order “Draw for Creatinine levels if medically needed” when you order an MRI exam for any patient who has any of the conditions listed below.