University of Wisconsin–Madison

Intravenous Contrast Agent Guideline

The following is intended to serve as a guideline for performing diagnostic studies that require contrast medium. Each case is unique and there will be times when the benefit of information gained from contrast administration will supersede the potential risk of reaction or renal toxicity. The following guidelines may not apply in these cases or in life-threatening emergencies.

  1. A current creatinine level must be available for all inpatients and for outpatients over 6o years of age prior to administration of intravenous contrast. “Current” is defined as within one month for outpatients and within one week for inpatients.  Please also reference a complete list of the recommended indications for measurement of serum creatinine (Who must have a creatinine level prior to IV contrast?)
  2. Patients with an elevated creatinine should receive intravenous contrast only if absolutely necessary. The following table provides a guideline for the use of contrast by type relative to the patients creatinine (mg/dL) or eGFR (%):

    UW Guidelines for Contrast Selection

    Diabetic

    Contrast Creatinine eGFR
    Iohexol ≤ 1.4 > 50
    Iodixanol 1.4 – 1.8 50-40
    No Contrast > 1.8 < 40

    Non-Diabetic

    Contrast Creatinine eGFR
    Iohexol < 1.8 > 40
    Iodixanol 1.8 – 2.4 40-30
    No Contrast > 2.4 < 30
  3. For an acutely traumatized patient for whom there is insufficient time to obtain a creatinine level, it is understood that the benefit of making an emergent diagnosis of a life-threatening injury outweighs the risk of contrast nephrotoxicity.
  4. Patients who have chronic renal failure and are on chronic dialysis may receive contrast. While the timing of contrast administration is not dependent upon dialysis, it is preferable that the next routine dialysis occurs within 24 hours following contrast. Contrast should be avoided in patients who are experiencing acute dialysis-dependent renal failure as there is hope that renal function will recover. However, contrast may be administered in this setting if the referring physician deems it necessary.
  5. Patients with multiple myeloma, sickle cell disease, homocystinuria, or active gout may receive intravenous contrast but should be well hydrated.
  6. Patients who report an allergy-like reaction to contrast may be premedicated according to protocol at the discretion of the radiologist. Resuscitation equipment and drugs should be readily available.
  7. Patients who report “passing out” or who needed resuscitation after past contrast injections, should have iodinated contrast only if alternative testing will not provide a satisfactory result. Same should apply to patients with allergic asthma or multiple severe allergies.
  8. Contrast reactions could be potentiated by anxiety. Therefore, if a patient is exceedingly anxious prior to contrast injection, they may be premedicated with: Midazolam, 2 mg IV titrated up to a maximum of 5 mg (contraindication = glaucoma)

Jessica Robbins, June 2015


Download  Intravenous Contrast Agent Guideline

The following is intended to serve as a guideline for performing diagnostic studies that require contrast medium. Each case is unique and there will be times when the benefit of information gained from contrast administration will supersede the potential risk of reaction or renal toxicity. The following guidelines may not apply in these cases or in life threatening emergencies.