Objective: The purpose of our study was to prospectively compare the cost, effectiveness, and patient tolerance of milk and VoLumen, a 0.1% barium suspension, in patients undergoing abdominal and pelvic CT with oral and i.v. contrast media.
Subjects and methods: Two hundred fifteen consecutive outpatients were randomly assigned to receive either whole milk (n = 115) or VoLumen (n = 100). Results were independently reviewed by two radiologists who were blinded to the oral contrast agent used. Degree of bowel distention was qualitatively scored on a 4-point scale, and bowel wall visibility was graded qualitatively on a yes-or-no basis. A questionnaire regarding oral contrast tolerability was provided to each patient. Cost comparison of the two agents was performed.
Results: No statistically significant differences were seen between whole milk and VoLumen with respect to degree of bowel distention and mural visualization for all segments of bowel studied (p > 0.05 for both reviewers). Significantly more patients ranked milk as pleasant in taste compared with VoLumen (p < 0.0001). More patients preferred milk compared with VoLumen (p < 0.0001). Milk was better tolerated than VoLumen, with fewer abdominal side effects, including abdominal discomfort (p = 0.019), cramping (p = 0.019), nausea (p = 0.016), and diarrhea (p = 0.0002). The cost per patient for VoLumen is $18 compared with $1.48 for milk.
Conclusion: 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. Milk is a cost-effective alternative to VoLumen as a low-attenuation oral contrast agent.