My Ovacome
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CT SCAN without contrast couldn't get the needles in!

Hi All

went for a 2nd opinion scan today but after trying to get a needle in they couldn't do it so did a non contrast scan

2 questions how accurate will this be without the contrast?

given the fact they couldn't get the needle in anywhere after 8 tries what are the options for future scan, chemo? Has anyone had this experience?

20 Replies

I am sorry I am probably not much help, but I would have thought that there was no point in continuing with the scan if it wasn't much use.. so there must have been some value in doing it ..but I am no expert....and as far as your veins are concerned just because they had difficulty this time doesn't mean that they will always have difficulty... as they might then put a cannula in a more permanent place...I think there's a limit to how many tries they have as well because not being able to inject causes you stress...I hope this helps but I am not could give Ruth Payne a ring on Monday and ask her advice tel 0845 371 0554

Best wishes love x G x


I just remembered a friend of mine when she went for a scan and they couldn't find a vein, they sent her to the chemo day ward to get them to put it in....and Monique has just reminded me of the "Hickman device" they use if they get a lot of trouble finding your veins (this was the more permanent one I mentioned above) as it makes their job easier as well as saving time... so you won't have problems if you are on chemo..

I have tried to read up about non-contrast scans and they are successful in picking things up too, some people are allergic to the contrast fluid so don't have it in at all.

adding the contrast just gives a clearer definition... best wishes x G x


I think Gwyn must be right - I don't think they would have done it if it wasn't going to be useful. If they can't access your veins there are several options. I had a device called a Hickman line which was inserted under local anaesthetic and removed after I finished chemo. They will discuss all of this with you, don't worry.

Best wishes, Monique


I did have similar problems (still do) as the chemo buggered up my veins, though they have always managed it in the end. Five tries to get blood is the record - and I know its been worse for other people - and on this occasion, I was told about the Hickman described by Monique above. In the event, it wasn't necessary.

I've been given a number of tips by nurses and phlebotomists. Drink plenty of water (I guess you would have had to do that for the CT scan anyway.) Run your hands under hot water. At one chemo session, after the first failed attempt, I sat with my hand in a bucket of warm water for 20 minutes. It did the trick.

Interestingly, the experienced phlebotomists have always got blood out of me at the first attempt.

Wishing you the best of luck


Mary xx


Hi Mary,

When I was on chemo they told me that a less experienced person is only allowed to try three times and then have to get a more experienced member of staff to do it, as it causes too much bruising, but once when they got a more experienced person to put the cannula in, he had trouble.. and they said if he couldn't do it... no one could. so I guess it happens a lot ... Love x G x


Hi Donna,

I do hope the scan worked despite the fact they could not get the needle in. We spend so much time backwards and forwards to hospitals the last thing we need is a wasted trip. I know the chemo does affect our veins. I have had two infections in the veins in my arms and they were unable to use those veins when I went for chemo last time. I was told to hold my hand in a bucket of hot water and this did bring my vein to the surface. Maybe next time you go for a scan you can ask if they can do this. Also drink loads as this helps the veins if your dehydrated the veins go flat. I have my scan next month so I am hoping they can get the needle in.

Looking forward to meeting up in May Love Babs x x



My Mum is the same, every time she has a scan they have to try numerous times to get the needle in. One time it took 45 minutes, these were all scans at approx 9-10am so Mum had had no fluids since the night before. This week she had her scan and was so worried about having the needle but her appointment wasn't until 3pm this gave her plenty of time to drink in the morning. They had no trouble getting the needle in this time, however she was not given the contrast as on the pre scan somethjing showed up on her kidneys, they continued with the scan and she was told that they prefer to use the contrast as it show up things better in organs than without, but the scan would still be ok. Lots of people are unable for one reason or another not to have the contrast. So I think as the other posts have said a hickman line is one option or try getting a later appointment and drink plenty before the 4 hrs prior to the scan when you have to have no food or fluids.

All the best




Hi Donna

When I went for my CTs they made me drink a vast quantity of water in the hour before hand- well not just me- everyone did it who was having one. Is this not common practise? Mine were done in Brighton.

Hope that what they did do will be of some use.




Hi, when I was having chemo I had a dreadful time with needles. I eventually ended up with a routine. Drink lots before leaving for hosp. Wear gloves on way (thermal ones were best) . When I arrived, they had a bucket of hot water waiting for me! I think all of them combined well for me, and I managed to get away without the picc line.

Hope you can find a routine that works for you.




Thanks everyone that has reassured me. today in y warm house my veins are very visible. the scanning room is very chilly so will ensure i drink plenty and wear gloves next time.



Dear Donna

I'm sorry you've been worried. It isn't necessary to have the contrast dye but it does give them a slightly better view. I developed an allergy to iodine so I can't have the dye and they could still read the scan OK.

As for problems with needles, at my hospital they always soak your hand in a bucket of warm water for about 10 minutes before you have the canular put in and some nurses bang the veins a bit. A friend in France had one of those Hickman lines in. It's standard practice in France. She was fine with that so I'm sure it will be OK if you go for that option.

Hope you're feeling more reassured now after hearing of the various experiences with needles and dye.

Lots of love xxx Annie


hi annie

i am so relieved to hear you say this. I can't drink the contrast and collasped and was fitting after cannula was in, i never made it to the scan as i ended up in a&e for 6 hours as blood pressure was 20/30. They are saying i still have to have the scan but there is no way i am going through that again. Did you not have the injection then? is there some way i can suggest this to them?

many thanks



Dear Hannah

I don't understand why your hospital can't give you a phial of clear liquid to drink 2 hours before your scan. I'm sure that wouldn't make you pass out. It's tasteless and you can add your own flavour if you like. That's what I had when I couldn't tolerate iodine.

Have you discussed why your blood pressure dropped so dramatically in the hospital? Is it fear of needles and procedures? My sister was being cared for by the Derriford Oncology Unit in Exeter for her cancer. She had a deep-rooted fear of hospitals and they invited her to take part in familiarisation sessions where she gradually built up confidence with the procedures she needed to have. Could you ask your hospital if they have something similar.

I have a great sympathy. My husband has what's called 'white coat syndrome'. His blood pressure goes haywire when he visits the doctor or a hospital. He nearly fainted a few years ago when he came to see me after an appendicectomy. It's a real problem for him but at least now he knows it's a syndrome he has been able to cope with it and manage the situation.

What a horrible experience for you. I do hope you get proper support. I wonder if you could try a Maggie's Centre or the Penny Brohn in Bristol. I'm fishing in the dark here as I don't know - but I bet both of these support resources would be a great help to you.

Horrible going through it all isn't it .... but it does keep us going.

Loads of love and hugs. xxxx Annie


Dear Annie

thank you so much for your message, i am extremely anxious about having this procedure and you have been the only person who has listened to me so thank you. It's nice to talk to someone who understands what i'm going through.

What is this phial of clear liquid you have to drink? is it the injection that has iodine in? how did u explain to them that you couldn't have the injection of dye? sorry to ask so many questions.

They haven't discussed my low blood pressure, which is a bit worrying as it's not the first time something like this has happened. My doctor didn't help, just told me i'd have to go through it again, wasn't understanding at all.

Thank you again for all your advice, you have been so helpful and i am so grateful for you taking the time to write to me.

Hope you are keeping well.

Hannah x


Dear Hannah

I'm so glad if I've helped at all.

I was given an iodine injection for my first scan and it was fine, but for my second I had the injection but I had a terrible reaction afterwards. Thinking back we rang the XRay department that evening and they were a bit relaxed about it. They said the reaction would pass. I had an itchy rash all over my body and I also remember feeling very hot and bothered so I'd imagine I had a temperature too.

The X-Ray staff logged this on my file at the hospital and when I had my 3rd scan just a couple of months ago they sent an appointment letter along with a plastic container of clear liquid which I was told to drink 2 hours before my scan so I didn't need an injection. I can ask at the Velindre if you want and find out what it was so you could ask for the same stuff. There was a label on the bottle but I didn't take much notice. I'm sure I can find out what it was and let you know.

I'm really shocked at your doctor's reaction to your low blood pressure and your worries. It seems so callous. If you're feeling rotten it's his/her job to find out what's causing it and help you. Could you ring Ovacome's hotline tomorrow? The oncology nurse there is so knowledgeable and may have some advice as to what you should do or who you should approach for help with this.

I mentioned my sister as she was seriously freaked out by hospitals and chemotherapy and as her life depended on having more chemotherapy the hospital must've taken it seriously. I said Derriford but I'm going a bit do-lally. I realise now that the hospital in Exeter is the Royal Devon and Exeter and the Derriford is in Plymouth. Sorry about this - I think I'm a bit distracted at the moment! She mentioned the series of classes saying she was doing some art to express her fears, and she was also given things to take home with her so she got used to the smell and texture of some of the products used in hospital. I think this might have been requested by a psychiatrist in her local mental health team as the problem really was quite serious. Perhaps that's a route you might think of.

I definitely think you should be talking to someone about a plan to help you with these problems. For most of us with Ovarian Cancer chemotherapy, scans, blood tests and the like are what will help us survive. I don't suppose there's a single one of us who likes what we have to do to keep going but if the procedures are upsetting you to such an extent that it would impact on your future chances I think you should explore all avenues to get some help.

I just hope yiou can make some headway on this. Let me know what I can do to help.

Love Annie xxxx


Thank you so much annie, it is so nice to have someone to talk to. If it's not to much trouble, would it be possible to find out what it is they gave you to drink 2 hours before the scan? i will definitely look into your other suggestions too. Thank you, you have been most helpful.

Love hannah xx


Hi there Donna ..

I used to travel to the hospital with my hands on hot water bottle and gloves on too did help .... as I do have cold hands ..only once had a problem with the needle when a nurse put it in a different vein from the normal place and my hand blew up .

Take care xxx

Love Jan xxx


When i have a CT scan they place a cannula/needle in the bend of my elbow not the back of the hand. The veins in the hand used for chemo and when they were no use I had a temporary PICC line put in just above my elbow which was removed when treatment completed . Sure they would not have done a CT scan if it was not going to be useful

Love Suex


Hi Donna,

As I've developed an allergic reaction to the CT scan dye, I now always have it without - and the results are fine, so don't worry.

About the veins, Sue is right, they should place the CT scan needle in the bend of the elbow.

I'm on weekly chemo now, and I wear gloves on the way to the hospital, under a hot water bottle. It seems to do the trick!.

Best of luck,



Hi Donna,

I've always had the CT scan needle in the bend of the elbow. i have to make a fist and keep opning and closing my hand.

I have had two picc lines and two Hickman lines but they won't use those for the scan needle.

Hope the results are ok.

love Marilyn


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