DESPITE the advent of newer imaging techniques, radiography remains one of the most useful diagnostic tools in veterinary practice. In most cases, plain radiographs are all that are required, especially if complemented by ultrasonography, but there are still some situations when it is useful to supplement the information gained from a routine radiographic examination by using one or more contrast agents. Contrast media can improve or allow the visualisation of organs surrounded by tissues of the same radiographic opacity, thus providing information about the size, shape and position of these structures and neighbouring areas. They can show the internal structure of an organ, including its mucosal pattern, and may also occasionally help in assessing organ function. While mainly used for the diagnosis of gastrointestinal and urogenital tract disorders, contrast agents can also be useful in other areas of veterinary work such as myelography, angiography and the investigation of joints and sinus tracts. This article, the first in a series of five, reviews the types of media available and their respective properties to help practitioners select the most appropriate agent for an individual case. Future articles, to be published in the forthcoming issues of In Practice, will focus on specific applications and techniques of contrast radiography.
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