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A guide for patients: Contrast medium extravasation

Patient information A-Z

This leaflet explains ‘contrast medium extravasation’ and answers many questions commonly asked by patients.

What is contrast medium extravasation?

Following an injection for a scan it is not uncommon for some of the contrast medium to go into the tissues around the injection site. This has happened because the vein the cannula was inserted into did not tolerate the flow of contrast medium. Although this does not happen from every injection, it is not uncommon and should cause very little pain or discomfort.

What should I do?

  • Raise the affected arm whenever possible.
  • Apply a dry, cold compress or covered ice pack to the site.
  • Check the injection site for any changes over the next few days.

What can I do if the site of the injection gets painful?

  • Take oral painkillers if needed.
  • Continue with ice packs every 20 minutes for the next two hours.

What changes should I be looking out for?

You should not be in too much discomfort but you should look out for the following changes:

  • Tingling in fingers on affected side.
  • Numbness on affected side.
  • Change in skin colour of injection site.
  • Change in skin texture – blistering or hardening on affected side.
  • Change in temperature of the site compared to the rest of the skin.
  • Change in colour of your fingers of the affected arm.

What should I do if I experience any of these changes?

Between 08:30 to 17:00 Monday to Friday, contact the department where you had the scan:

CT scanning department: 01223 217219 or 01223 217427

PET-CT unit: 01223 349222

MRI unit: 01223 216667

Radiology day unit: 01223 274287

If these changes occur out of hours (after 17:00 or at weekends) then you should attend your local emergency department (ED) for further advice and take this information sheet with you so that the ED knows what has happened and that treatment has been given.

The next day

A staff member from the imaging department will contact you by telephone the next day to ensure that there are no problems, and answer any questions you may have.

What should I do if I have to have another scan in the future?

Do not worry as this may not happen again. However, if you do have to come for another imaging scan you should ensure that you inform the radiographer who gives the injection so that they are aware this has happened before.


If you have any other questions that the leaflet does not answer or would like further explanation please contact the relevant department.


This information sheet has been written in accordance with COHAN, R H MD AND ELLIS, J H. (1996) Extravasation of Radiographic Contrast Material: Recognition, Prevention, and Treatment. USA: Radiological Ref / other documents etc.

For imaging department use only
Patient Name:
Hospital Number:
Date/Time of Injection:
Type of Contrast:
Estimated Volume:

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Contact us

Cambridge University Hospitals
NHS Foundation Trust
Hills Road, Cambridge

Telephone +44 (0)1223 245151