Reading time: 3 min

Contrast radiography is based on the use of conventional x-ray with contrast media that is opaque to radiation. It is used to detect illnesses in the digestive and urinary tracts, the genitals, as well as to perform post-operative assessments.

What is Contrast Radiography?

It is a conventional radiological technique that also uses a contrast medium, i.e., a substance such as barium or iodine, which is opaque to radiation. The medium can be injected, ingested or introduced using an enema and produces a view of inside the human body.

Contrast radiography can be used to study the appearance and function of internal structures.

How does it work?

This technique helps us study the shapes and function of the different structures in the human body. It employs an X-ray fluorescence screen and a contrast medium, which are also known as substances opaque to X-rays (e.g., barium and iodine). The medium is injected, ingested or introduced as an enema, according to each case, and affords us a view of the body’s internal structures.

What is it used for?

Contrast radiography is used to detect the presence of a variety of conditions, such as ulcers, stones, benign tumours, malignant tumours and inflammatory processes, and for completing postoperative evaluations.

How is it performed?

Before undergoing these tests patients must undress, remove footwear and put on a gown. Patients should not wear any jewellery or metal objects because they interfere with the capture and interpretation of the images.

The contrast medium is then administered and the X-rays are taken. While capturing images most examinations require that the patient assumes different positions, for example, they may need to lie on the examination table or stand up. The patient may also be asked to remain very still and hold their breath to avoid producing blurred X-rays.

How do I prepare for a contrast X-ray?

For the majority of these tests, it is important to fast for at least six hours before starting. You must also refrain from smoking during this period.

You must have an empty stomach for contrast X-rays of the digestive system in order to produce a valid diagnostic study.

Special situations

As the examination uses X-rays, you must inform the healthcare professional, nursing staff or technician if you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant.

Who performs the test?

Healthcare professionals will guide and assist the patient throughout the test.

The study will be performed in a room that is specially prepared for each examination. Depending on each centre and the type of study to be performed, a technician may perform the test (under the supervision of a radiologist). The radiologist will then issue a report signed for the doctor who requested the study.

Who interprets the results?

A healthcare professional specialising in radiology.

What can I expect to feel during the test?

The contrast liquid may have an unpleasant taste and texture, they are normally thick and earthy (in the case of barium) or have an aniseed flavour (in the case of other substances). You may also feel the need to burp after ingesting them. You may, in the case of iodine, note a slight burning sensation in the face, neck and above all in the genital area.

You may also notice that the examination table used for the test is cold and hard.

Substantiated information by:

Laura Oleaga Zufiría

Published: 20 February 2018
Updated: 22 February 2024


Receive the latest updates related to this content.

Thank you for subscribing!

If this is the first time you subscribe you will receive a confirmation email, check your inbox

An error occurred and we were unable to send your data, please try again later.