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Invest Radiol. 2004 Mar;39(3):149-54.

The cytotoxicity of iodinated radiocontrast agents on renal cells in vitro.

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Department of Medicine I, Hegau-Klinikum, Singen, Germany.


A deterioration of renal function is one preoccupying complication of iodinated radiocontrast agents in clinical practice. These compounds have direct toxic effects on renal cells, which are only in part related to their physicochemical properties. The hyperosmolal monomeric ionic radiocontrast agents, like diatrizoate, have the highest toxicity, whereas renal cells are less affected by (nonionic) compounds with reduced osmolality. The toxic effects include cellular energy failure, a disruption of calcium homeostasis, a disturbance of tubular cell polarity and programmed cell death (apoptosis). The molecular mechanisms of the direct cytotoxicity are still unclear, although oxidative stress has been implicated. Radiocontrast cytotoxicity has been demonstrated in glomerular mesangial cells and in renal epithelial cells in vitro. In vivo, the direct cellular toxicity of radiocontrast agents is compounded with alterations in blood flow and/or viscosity, ultimately resulting in renal medullary hypoxia, which is a hallmark feature of the complex clinical syndrome of radiocontrast nephropathy.

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