Thursday, November 15, 2012

Scatological Issues and Radiology

On Tuesday November 13th, I went for a small bowel x-ray series.  The main purpose was to locate my primary tumor. Another reason was to determine if my small intestines were wide enough to swallow a “pill camera”- as is done in a capsule endoscopy.   The test involved swallowing about 16 ounces of a very white, chalky barium compound and then waiting for it to go through the small intestine and into the colon.  Along the way, there are x-rays taken at intervals of between 15-30 minutes. 
This is what bothers me about all these perpetual tests and procedures: the process should be explained in advance and not as things go along.  Finally, any possible side effects should be clarified up front.  For example, when I made my appointment for the x-ray series, the receptionist told me it would take “about an hour”.  It took 2 hours and 20 minutes.  The technician who was working with me said that was about normal and sometimes it can take up to 6 hours for the barium compound to travel into the colon.  Not exactly “an hour”.  Meanwhile, I had scheduled a conference call at work for 11:00. My appointment was at 8:30 am, so I thought I had plenty of time.  I missed the call. The radiology location was in a basement so I could not phone or email to inform my office that I would be unavailable. There is no service below ground.  And speaking of side effects, later in the day, I had a bowel movement and it came out completely white!  I gasped as I found this quite shocking!  If someone had made the effort to warn me, I would have been fine with it.

The first time I had a CT scan, my sister in law warned me about the effects of the injected dye.  For those that don’t know what I’m talking about, when dye is injected while you are laying on the CT scan table, it feels like you are urinating in your pants.  The technician refers to this as “you might get a warm feeling”, not that it feels like peeing!  At least I had advance notice on that occasion.

The radiology resident who was doing most of my small bowel x-rays said that they looked normal and that there was no sign of any tumors.  We’ll see what the actual report shows.

Meanwhile, I think my next step is the capsule endoscopy or pill camera.  This test will have me swallowing a “pill size” camera that takes pictures as it goes through my gastrointestinal system.  A few weeks ago, there was a post on the ACOR list about someone doing this test and the camera came out in the toilet still flashing pictures!  At least I have an idea of what I might expect and won’t be surprised if something weird like that happens and no one warns me.  I haven’t scheduled the test yet but I’m guessing it will take about an hour…