Milk may be cost-effective alternative to contrast agent

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Whole milk is comparable to VoLumen with respect to bowel distention and bowel wall visualization and has a lower cost, better patient acceptance and fewer adverse symptoms, according to study results published in the May issue of American Journal of Roentgenology.

Chi Wan Koo, MD, and colleagues from the department of radiology at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City, said the purpose of their study was to prospectively compare the cost, effectiveness and patient tolerance of milk and VoLumen, a 0.1 percent barium suspension, in patients undergoing abdominal and pelvic CT with oral and IV contrast media.

The researchers randomly assigned 215 consecutive outpatients to receive either whole milk (115 patients) or VoLumen (100 patients). Two radiologists, who were blinded to the oral contrast agent used, independently reviewed the results.

The investigators found that there were no statistically significant differences between whole milk and VoLumen with respect to degree of bowel distention and mural visualization for all segments of bowel studied. Also, the authors noted that significantly more patients ranked milk “as pleasant in taste compared with VoLumen.”

Milk was better tolerated than VoLumen, with fewer abdominal side effects, including abdominal discomfort, cramping, nausea and diarrhea, Wan Koo and colleagues said.

The authors wrote that the cost per patient for VoLumen is $18 compared with $1.48 for milk. As a result, the researchers concluded that milk is a cost-effective alternative to VoLumen as a low-attenuation oral contrast agent.