Accuracy of CT scans without Contrast Dye

Hello all.
I have a question about other people's experiences with CT scans for finding kidney tumors (and anything else that probably shouldn't be in there - other than loose change, car keys, etc..)

I recently had a set of ultrasounds about 6 months apart that showed a growing mass in my left kidney. After the second one I had a cat scan done to confirm the results of the ultrasound. Because I have high creatinine levels and compromised kidney function (low eGFR) my nephrologist said to do the cat scan without a contrast dye because to use contrast could cause kidney failure. I was to use an oral barium contrast only, which highlights the digestive system but not any other organ tissues - from what I understand.

The results of the scan came back "negative", with the understanding that that because there was no contrast, they couldn' be 100% certain that a mass wasn't there. The mass as measured on the ultrasound was less than 4 CM, so it was not a large one.

My question for all is this: has anyone else had a similar experience and it turned out to be positive without contrast, either during the scan or at a later time? If so, do you recall the size of the tumor?

I would also like to hear any anyone else's stories regarding the use of contrast if they have high creatinine and/or low eGFR.

Or if you just want to say hi, that's ok too :-)

Thanks for reading and I look forward to your replies.


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I see you posted this many months ago, so I hope you are doing all right. I had a CT without contrast two years ago when I passed a kidney stone. It showed cysts on my left kidney. I was referred to a urologist/surgeon who ordered CT with and without contrast to see if the cysts were tumors or just cysts. Lo and behold, a tumor showed up on the other kidney that had not been visible without contrast. It was 2.5 cm. I was scheduled for surgery eleven days after. The location of the tumor and the fact that the kidney had very little function left meant I had to have a total nephrectomy. As it turned out, it was a type of kidney cancer (HLRCC) which is extremely aggressive. Some types of kidney cancer (for example, VHL) don't metastasize until they are over 3 cm. But this kind is known to metastasize when it is very small. I'm glad my doctor didn't waste any time. During the five years following surgery I have to have periodic scans to check the other kidney and look for metastases. They use contrast every time. My creatinine before surgery was 0.9.

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I do not think I have kidney disease, just fused ectopic kidneys with total function of about 80%, pain, fairly constant UTI's and high BUN and Creatitine levels but gfr is OK...yet I also was told to not allow contrast dyes. The last time did allow it I became nauseated and felt cold...that was the gladoline (sp?). My veins even collapsed which has never happened before and I do not understand why that happens. I will not go through that again...perhaps there are other contrast agents that are not so toxic. I am just learning about all of this. Hope things go well for you.

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Hans99, recommend discussing with your doctor/radiologist the possibility
of using diluted strength contrast. May provide better scan results.
Good luck with your care and treatment.

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Diluted contrast seems like a great idea! Thanks.

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