Radiologists at Columbia University randomly gave patients who were having CT scans of their abdomen and pelvis either whole milk or a drink containing barium (VoLumen). In addition, intravenous contrast was used to enhance images.
Radiologists who didn’t know whether images were produced with milk or barium rated each exam for adequate bowel expansion and the visibility of the bowel wall. They found no significant differences between the two approaches.
Patients found milk tasted better and had fewer side effects including diarrhea, cramping, nausea, and abdominal discomfort. And it cost considerably less — the barium drink cost $18 for each exam compared to $1.48 for a glass of milk.
While milk performed well in the study, it may not be right for people who are lactose intolerant.
Dr. Chi Wan Koo and his colleagues concluded,
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.
SOURCE: Koo et al, American Journal of Roentgenology, Volume 190, Issue 5, May 2008.