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The effect of slow intravenous infusion of contrast medium (CM) (1600 mg I/kg body weight) on cortical blood flow (BF) and medullary BF in rat kidneys was investigated by laser-Doppler flowmetry on either renal cortex or exposed renal papillas (inner medulla). The effect on cortical BF was evaluated after infusion of either ioxaglate, iohexol, or ioxithalamate. Mannitol and Ringer's solution were used as control substances. The effect on medullary BF was examined after infusion of either ioxaglate, iohexol, iopamidol, ioxithalamate, or mannitol. BF was measured continuously during a 30-minute control period and a 60-minute experimental period, starting with the CM infusion. Cortical BF was unchanged in the ioxaglate group and significantly increased in the iohexol, ioxithalamate, and mannitol groups (P<.05). Medullary BF was moderately increased in the ioxaglate group (P<.05) but moderately decreased in the groups that received iohexol, iopamidol, ioxithalamate, or mannitol (P <.05). The reduction in medullary BF following infusion of the ratio 3.0 nonionic CM and of the ratio 1.5 ionic CM might be one contributory mechanism to the pathogenesis of CM nephropathy, especially in the presence of microangiopathy in the kidney.