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Water as an intraluminal negative contrast medium produces improved image quality with reduced artefact. However, rapid absorption of oral water in the bowel relative to speed and timing of image capturing has limited its clinical application. These findings predate advances in multidetector-row computed tomography (CT). To re-evaluate differences in image quality, we studied image clarity and luminal distention between the same group of patients who received both a pancreas protocol CT (PPCT) that uses oral water and a conventional positive oral contrast scan. We reviewed 66 patients who had previously undergone both a PPCT and an oral contrast abdominal CT. CT images were independently reviewed by two board-certified radiologists who scored degree of hollow viscus distention and visualization of mural detail using a Likert 5-point scale. Results were evaluated by using the Wilcoxon-signed rank test. Student's t test was applied to evaluate the differences in radiation dosage and Spearman's correlational test was used to evaluate interrater correlation between the radiologists. In comparing the mean radiation dosage, there was no statistical difference between the two protocols, and there was good interrater association with ratios of 0.595 and 0.51 achieved for the PPCT and conventional oral scan, respectively. The Wilcoxon signed-rank test showed statistical differences in the stomach (P < 0.001) for both clarity (P < 0.001) and distention (P < 0.001), the duodenum for both clarity (P < 0.001) and distention (P = 0.02), and the ileum for distention (P = 0.02) with the PPCT having a better median score for organ clarity in the stomach and duodenum and better luminal distention in the stomach, equal distention in the duodenum, and slightly worse distention in the ileum. For the remainder of the bowel and organs evaluated, there was no statistically significant difference in the ratings between the two protocols. Using present CT scan technology, water can be an effective contrast medium causing better or equal distention in the bowel and better or equal clarity than routine barium contrast. This calls for a need to reconsider the use of water as a contrast medium in clinical practice.


Tafadzwa P Makarawo, Edsa Negussie, Sachit Malde, Jacqueline Tilak, Jennifer Gayagoy, Jenna Watson, Faiz Francis, Denis Lincoln, Michael J Jacobs. Water as a contrast medium: a re-evaluation using the multidetector-row computed tomography. The American surgeon. 2013 Jul;79(7):728-33

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PMID: 23816008

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