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Br J Radiol. 1998 Apr;71(844):357-65.

Contrast media-induced nephrotoxicity--questions and answers.

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Department of Diagnostic Imaging, Northern General Hospital NHS Trust, Sheffield, UK.


The intravascular administration of contrast media (CM) can produce acute haemodynamic changes in the kidney characterized by an increase in renal vascular resistance and a decrease in the glomerular filtration rate (GFR). These changes may lead to clinically significant reduction in renal function in patients with pre-existing risk factors such as diabetic nephropathy, congestive heart failure and dehydration. The pathophysiology of the renal haemodynamic effects of CM involves activation of the tubuloglomerular feedback (TGF) mechanism and the modulation of the intrarenal production of vasoactive mediators such as prostaglandins, nitric oxide, endothelin and adenosine. The TGF response is osmolality-dependent and accounts for about 50% of the acute functional effects of high osmolar CM on the kidney. Reduction in the synthesis of the endogenous vasodilators nitric oxide and prostaglandins increases the nephrotoxicity of CM. Endothelin and adenosine play a crucial role in mediating the acute functional effects of CM. Antagonists of these mediators attenuate the reduction in renal function induced by contrast agents. Vacuolization of the cells of the proximal tubules and necrosis of those of the medullary ascending limbs of loops of Henle are the main structural effects of CM in the kidney. The reduction in renal function induced by CM could be minimized by the use of low osmolar CM and adequate hydration. The prophylactic administration of calcium channel blockers and adenosine antagonists such as theophylline may also offer some protective effect.

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