Whitney Palmer

Healthcare. Politics. Family.

Communicating Risks of Contrast Agents to Patients

Published on the Jan. 29, 2013, DiagnosticImaging.com website

By Whitney L.J. Howell

One of the most commonly used imaging tools in a radiologist’s arsenal is the contrast agent. It enhances the appearance of structures and fluids, but it isn’t without risks and challenges. And, it’s up to radiologists, industry experts say, to make sure your patients and staff understand how to use it and why.

While less than 1 percent of patients experience a negative response to a contrast agent, according to a Mayo Clinic study, everyone involved with a scan using contrast should be aware of all possible outcomes and know how to handle them. The American College of Radiology offers guidance in how to best administer these agents, but creating the optimal experience for the patient involves more than selecting the right agent and using the correct measurement.

“You’re giving someone a drug, and there’s a risk to that. Patients have to understand that risk,” said Lawrence Marks, MD, chair of radiation oncology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine. “They have to understand the value of the test, but like everything else in medicine, your actions should be based on a discussion with the patient before you do it.”

Educating the Patient

Although the risks can be minor, you should always consider if using contrast is even necessary, said Jeffrey Kanne, MD, associate professor of thoracic imaging and quality and safety vice chair at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. If you can obtain the same information with the same level of specificity without using an agent, then do so, he said. That is always the safest option.

However, if contrast media is necessary, make it as easy to understand as possible. Like many procedures in radiology, the use of contrast media includes complex terminology that is potentially unfamiliar to patients. Always explain what the contrast media is and what it does in basic terminology — then, employ the teach-back method.

“Make sure you have patients explain back to you what you said. It’s a very valid way of ensuring patients truly understand,” Kanne said. “If they can recount back, you know they understand. If not, it’s clear you haven’t communicated effectively, and you need to try a different approach.”

One such strategy is a patient education website that addresses the risks associated with contrast media and tells patients what information you will need to ensure not only their safety, but also the best imaging results. For example, the University of Washington Medical Center maintains a patient education page that answers questions about need and risk in easy-to-understand language.

In addition, be willing to sit with patients and give them the opportunity to voice their questions and concerns. The most common worry patients have, Kanne said, is the misconception that contrast agents are radioactive. Others — many of whom experienced previous-generation contrast agents — fear the procedure will be painful and cause a burning sensation.

To read the remainder of the story at its original location: http://www.diagnosticimaging.com/contrast-agents/content/article/113619/2125650

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February 4, 2013 - Posted by | Healthcare | , , , , , , , , , ,

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