Friday, May 30, 2008

Wham: Whole Milk Beats Barium as a Contrast Agent

Have you ever had to have your digestive tract examined, and been asked to swallow a great big glass of foul-tasting liquid containing barium, a metallic substance? If so, you'll be glad to know that a study has been done and that an item commonly found in many homes – whole milk – is just as effective, costs less and is easier on the patient than the diluted barium drink.

The study included 215 patients undergoing abdominal and pelvic CT, said Chi Wan Koo, MD, lead author of the study. All patients were given an IV contrast media; 115 were also given whole milk as an oral contrast agent; 100 received a 0.1% barium suspension. Two radiologists reviewed all the images and scored them based on degree of bowel distension and bowel wall visibility. Adequate bowel distension is necessary to optimize resolution of the bowel wall and contents, said Dr. Koo.

The study found that the images taken of patients who were given whole milk were just as useful as the images that were taken of patients given the diluted barium, she said.

In addition, patients were given a questionnaire, asking them how well they tolerated the oral contrast agents, and a cost comparison was done. “We found that milk was less expensive, it had better patient acceptance and fewer adverse symptoms,” Dr. Koo said.

Is this surprising? Not at all. I think that doctors, always in a rush to give you something that comes from a pharma company supplier, need to look more closely at natural products because not always do we have to rely on the chemical alternative.


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