Radiopaque Agent-Diagnostic (Intra-Arterial, Intraspinal, Intravenous, Oral, Rectal)

Radiopaque Agent-Diagnostic drugs are used to assist with the diagnosis of many medical problems, as they are agents that, because of the iodine they contain, absorb x-rays and provide a contrasted image of the area, giving a clearer picture to the doctor.


What is a Radiopaque Agent-Diagnostic?

Radiopaque agent-diagnostic drugs are also sold under the following names as a brand marketing reference:

  • Multihance
  • Gastrografin
  • Sinografin
  • Cystografin
  • Feridex IV
  • Glofil-125
  • MD-Gastroview
  • Hypaque Meglumine
  • Perchloracap
  • Hypaque Sodium
  • Renocal-76
  • Cystografin-Dilute

These are drugs used only during medical tests involving x-rays to saturate a particular area or organ and provide a high-contrast photo for the doctor to review. Agents that are radiopaque are used to diagnose many medical issues, including:

  • Conditions in blood vessels including those in the brain and heart
  • Issues in the biliary tract
  • Tumors in the brain
  • Lesions on the breasts
  • Pulmonary disease
  • Spinal fluid or disk issues
  • Diseases of the kidney, liver, spleen, and pancreas
  • Joint problems
  • Health issues in the stomach and intestines
  • Problems in the urinary tract

Given by enema, injection or by mouth, depending on the location to be imaged, radiopaque contrast agents are sold in powder, capsule, solution, suspension and tablet form. Again, the appropriate administration method and dose will be determined by your radiological medical professional.

How does a radiopaque agent-diagnostic work?

Radiopaque agent-diagnostic drugs most likely contain iodine, which an element discovered in the 1800s. The characteristic that makes iodine useful as a radiopaque agent-diagnostic is its high atomic number. When the iodine found in a radiopaque agent-diagnostic is administered to the human body in a large amount, it saturates the area and provides contrast to the image taken of that area with an x-ray.

Iodine is itself an essential mineral or nutrient of the body, so the use of this element in drugs like radiopaque agent-diagnostic typically provides a non-toxic contrast agent that is safe, easily eliminated by the body and very useful in assisting with a diagnosis for many conditions. There are, however, patients who are allergic to radiopaque agent-diagnostic, which is one of the reasons it is available in different weights and doses. Radiopaque agent-diagnostic is for use by a physician only; typically a radiologist or a doctor in the radiology department.

Conditions treated

  • Disease of the blood vessels, brain, breast, heart, kidney, joint, liver, pancreas, spine, spleen, stomach, biliary tract, urinary tract, uterus, fallopian tubes

Type of medicine

  • Radiopaque contrast agent

Side effects

By providing a concentration of iodine in the body, radiopaque agent-diagnostic drugs may cause unusual reactions which could be diagnosed as allergic in nature. Typically, patients who react to radiopaque agent-diagnostic drugs do so immediately upon being given the dose or a few moments after. Usually, these reactions aren't serious and, since patients are only given radiopaque agent-diagnostic drugs in a hospital setting under a doctor's supervision, any medical assistance required urgently is available. Patients being given radiopaque agent-diagnostic drugs should let the medical staff know if they experience the following:

Spinal exam patients:

  • Partial paralysis
  • Hallucinating

Patients given GBCA forms, specifically gadolinium-containing agents, could experience:

  • Itchy, burning skin
  • Stiff joints
  • Partial paralysis in arms, legs, feet or hands
  • Weak muscles
  • Deep pain in the rib cage or hip bones
  • Dark, red skin patches
  • Swollen, tight or hard skin
  • Whites of the eyes show raised, yellow spots

As your system adjusts to the dose of radiopaque agent-diagnostic formulas, you may experience the side effects below, which typically are relieved as the drug leaves your body. The medical team will be prepared with ways to calm or alleviate these symptoms, should they occur:

  • Diarrhea
  • Flushed, warm skin
  • Dizzy
  • Lightheadedness
  • Chills
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Headache
  • Sweating
  • Injection site burning or painful
  • Mouth tastes of metal
  • Dry mouth
  • Urination is difficult
  • Severe headache
  • Light sensitivity
  • Drowsiness
  • Buzzing or Ringing sound in the ears
  • Fatigue
  • Weak muscles

Spinal patients:

  • Dizziness
  • Backache
  • Headache
  • Vomiting, nausea
  • Neck stiffness

There are many radiopaque agent-diagnostic drugs on the market and not all patients experience all of the unusual effects listed, though some agents have common ingredients and risks. If you experience unusual effects after your test period with radiopaque agent-diagnostic drugs, seek immediate medical assistance.


Radiopaque agent-diagnostic drugs are given only in a professional medical setting so their use, including dosage amounts and other details, are customized by the patient, the area that is to be examined via imaging and the strength of the drug. The patient's age, x-ray equipment that is to be used and the size of the organ or area to be imaged is all taken into account when choosing which concentration of radiopaque agent-diagnostic drugs to use.

Radiopaque agent-diagnostic drugs are divided into classes according to the concentration amounts. There are high and low iodine concentration formulas of radiopaque agent-diagnostic drugs available to the radiologist. High concentration agents are safe choices and wise for most patients. Patients who may experience reactions to radiopaque agent-diagnostic drugs that could be allergy related may be given low concentration agents. These patients include asthma sufferers and those who have a history of being allergic to various substances.


Radiopaque agent-diagnostic are extremely powerful and can have effects on the body that are unexpected and sometimes dangerous. Discuss all effects of radiopaque agent-diagnostic with your health care advisors prior to treatment and let them know of any other medications you are currently taking. Include all information on non-prescription as well as prescription medication and even holistic, herbal and vitamin supplements.

There are certain medications that should never be taken together for any reason and others that work harmoniously to fight the diseases from different angles. Your physician will want to know about all medications you are taking prior to using radiopaque agent-diagnostic drugs in case adjustment needs to be made to doses of this or other medications.

Discuss the use of radiopaque agent drugs in conjunction with alcoholic beverages, tobacco or illegal drugs with your health care professional in case of interactions. Some foods may also affect the outcome of a test with radiopaque agent-diagnostic drugs, so adhere to the special diet provided to you, if applicable.

Before x-ray imaging with a dose of radiopaque agent-diagnostic, your physician will most likely give you a set of instructions to prepare for the test, which could include laxative enemas, vaginal douches, abstaining from food or even a special diet. Follow any instructions you are given carefully, as they will assist in both making your body safe for the test and providing the best test results. Most likely, you will be instructed to empty your bladder immediately before the test. Dialysis patients who receive the GBCA form of radiopaque agent-diagnostic (known as gadolinium) will most likely be given dialysis after the test to assist their body in removing the drug.


In the interest of providing safe, effective care, your medical team will inform you of any information you need to be aware of prior to use of radiopaque agent-diagnostic drugs during a medical test. As the test itself is about protecting your health and providing care, use of radiopaque agent-diagnostic drugs certainly outweighs most risks and side effects. However, even patients with dire health circumstances should consider the potential health risks as outlined below.

If you have had an unusual reaction that was determined to be allergic in nature to another medicine, it is best to inform your healthcare team of this fact. Additionally, allergies to animals, dyes, foods or preservatives should also be made known to your medical team.

Elderly patients are warned of an increased risk of unwanted effects with use of radiopaque agent-diagnostic drugs due to age-related health factors. Similarly, children can also be an age group who are warned of increased side effect risk with use of radiopaque agent-diagnostic.

Certain radiopaque agent-diagnostic drugs have specific warnings that they should not be used on women who are pregnant. Over and above the use of radiopaque agent-diagnostic drugs as a whole, x-ray images concentrated on the abdominal area are not recommended during pregnancy whatsoever. For these reasons, your physician should be informed if you are pregnant before being tested with radiopaque agent-diagnostic drugs or x-ray imaging.

Breastfeeding after the use of radiopaque agent-diagnostic drugs has been shown to pass on trace amounts to the breastfeeding infant, which may or may not be harmful. As a precaution, it may be advised that breastfeeding halt on a temporary basis after you receive radiopaque agent-diagnostic drugs testing. Discuss breastfeeding with your doctor prior to having an image procedure or test with radiopaque agent-diagnostic drugs.

Discuss the use of radiopaque agent drugs in conjunction with alcoholic beverages, tobacco or illegal drugs with your health care professional in case of interactions. Some foods may also affect the outcome of a test with radiopaque agent-diagnostic drugs, so adhere to the special diet provided to you, if applicable.

If you have been diagnosed with the following medical issues or diseases, testing with radiopaque agent-diagnostic may not be effective or safe for you. Make sure you inform your health care provider if you have:

  • Liver diseases
  • Kidney problems, chronic or acute (avoid GBCA use)
  • Allergic reactions to pollen or grasses
  • Asthma
  • Allergic reactions to penicillin substances
  • Hypertension or Pheochromocytoma
  • Bone cancers such as multiple myeloma
  • Prostate enlargement
  • Thyroid diseases
  • Sickle cell condition
  • Infections of the genital or urinary tracts
  • Inflammation of the pelvis
  • Type two diabetes

With regard specifically to the radiopaque agent-diagnostic drug known as GBCA or gadolinium, exposure to this substance in patients who have an insufficient renal function could cause a condition known as NSF or nephrogenic, or kidney, systemic fibrosis. NSF is a disease involving the kidneys, which can begin to form excess tissue that is fibrous in nature. This condition can also affect muscle and skin and become serious in nature, involving reduced kidney function and even death in some patients. It is very critical to your long-term health to inform your medical team of all ailments you may have at the time of your test procedure or any other symptoms of diseases you have not been diagnosed with in order to protect your state of health. Itchy skin with burning sensations or dark, red spots on the skin and even swollen, tight, hard skin or spots that appear yellow on the eyes should all be reported to the physician treating you. If your legs or arms are difficult to move or you feel pain deep within the ribs or bones of the hips, this also should be communicated to the medical staff as they could be symptoms of NSF.

Thyroid testing after being given radiopaque agent-diagnostic drugs could demonstrate results that are skewed or inaccurate. Inform your healthcare professionals if you have been tested with radiopaque agent-diagnostic drugs prior to receiving a thyroid test.


As radiopaque agent-diagnostic drugs is only administered in a hospital or other professional medical setting, storage information is typically not provided for these types of contrast agents. However, it is advised by the manufacturers that a majority of these drugs are able to be stored at room temperature but protected from light sources. It is advised that, after dilution of the drug, if required, that it be used immediately.


Radiopaque agent-diagnostic drugs act as contrast agents when they are administered by physicians, radiologists or radiology technical staff just before x-ray imaging. Because of the high weight of the iodine found in radiopaque agent-diagnostic drugs, it settles in the organ or area of the body it is administered to. It then blocks the x-ray image, providing a white contrasted picture of the organ or area for examination by a medical doctor to determine the presence of different conditions and diseases. Without this contrast, the area or organ that needed to be examined with imaging would blend into the surrounding tissues, rendering it more difficult to see.

The iodine found in radiopaque agent-diagnostic drugs could cause reactions in patients who have already experienced allergies to other medications or event foods, preservatives or dyes. To be safe and ensure an effective test with these agents in whatever form, patients are advised to disclose their medical histories and drug histories while including any use of holistic or vitamin therapies as well.

Unwanted effects could occur, so vomiting, nausea, stomach ailments or pains in the back area should be reported to the medical staff administering radiopaque agent-diagnostic drugs to you. Typically symptoms you may experience are temporary and are relieved as soon as the radiopaque agent-diagnostic drug is relieved from your body.

Patients who have kidney problems are advised to avoid radiopaque agent-diagnostic testing using gadolinium, as they are at a higher risk for a health condition that may become serious known as NSF which involves the skin, organs and muscles. Those with allergies to other substances or infections in the areas to be tested should also be advised to avoid testing with radiopaque agent-diagnostic drugs or to use lower concentrations.

Dosage is determined by the patient's age and condition, as well as many other factors and, will be determined by professional radiology staff prior to the testing.


Last Reviewed:
January 30, 2018
Last Updated:
April 05, 2018