Ask the Doctor
Questions about kidney disease? Risk factors? Signs and symptoms? Are you concerned about yourself, a friend or family member? Ask Dr. Spry.
When doctors look at your blood vessels with an imaging test, they may need to inject a dye. Contrast dye is used for many procedures such as a CT scan with contrast or coronary or heart x-ray (angiogram). It helps doctors to see the exact site of blocked blood vessels and also to see certain problems with organs more clearly. This is very useful for diagnosis, since the blockages in blood vessels can be hard to see without the dye. Doctors also use contrast dye during other blood vessel procedures so they can see the blood vessels they are treating.
But, sometimes the dye can cause serious problems in the kidneys. This is known as “contrast induced nephropathy (CIN).” About 1% to 3% of people who receive these special dyes develop changes in their kidney function. Anyone can get CIN, but those at the greatest risk have CKD. Additional risk factors are diabetes (particularly in those who have CKD), the elderly, and chronic heart failure.
CIN is a rare complication and may be preventable. There are several ways to reduce the potential for damage during procedures in which contrast dyes are used.
Some medications can potentially cause a kidney problem by decreasing blood flow to the kidneys. Because contrast dyes can also decrease kidney blood flow, these medications and the dye should not be given at the same time.
If doctors need to look at your blood vessels, the risk of CIN shouldn't stop the procedure. There are benefits to undergoing these procedures. The benefits, however, should outweigh the risks associated with the use of contrast dye. Contrast dyes have helped in the treatment of patients with blocked arteries. Remember, there is a risk of NOT DOING the procedure also. If you have coronary artery disease that is treatable, these procedures can make a big difference.
Most important, talk to your health care team about your kidneys when they are planning to do a procedure using contrast dyes.