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Low-Osmolality Contrast Media: A Current Perspective

      Intravascular radiographic contrast media play a major role in diagnostic imaging. Recently, low-osmolality contrast media (LOCM) have become available in the United States. Because of their lower osmolality, these new agents cause fewer undesirable physiologic effects and fewer adverse reactions than do conventional agents after intravascular administration. Unfortunately, the cost of LOCM is substantially higher than the cost of conventional contrast media. Appropriate use of these newer, more expensive contrast agents must be based on a thorough knowledge and understanding of their chemistry, physiologic features, and relative safety. Some questions remain about these new agents. Further studies are needed to determine the nephrotoxicity of LOCM relative to that of conventional agents. In addition, LOCM have less anticoagulant capacity than do the conventional media; therefore, clotting may occur when the LOCM and blood mix in syringes and small catheters. This potential decrease in anticoagulation and its clinical implications should be further investigated. Finally, the mortality rate associated with use of LOCM needs to be determined in future studies in large numbers of patients.
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