Jun 12, 2009

On Readi-Cat and Queasy Resignation

Left: Mucilaginous, milky, and mephitic

I have some health issues going on that may or may not be related to my recent diagnosis of hypothyroidism. Among these are some elevated liver enzymes and problems with polyneuropathy in my feet, and this morning I headed to Flower Hospital for an abdominal CT scan and an electromyography (EMG) test.

To prepare for the CT scan I needed to drink a bottle of a noxious liquid called Readi-Cat, a watery solution of barium sulfate. For those who have never consumed said cocktail, Readi-Cat has the consistency of runny plaster with a taste not unlike, well, runny plaster.

The hardest part of drinking this vile concoction is not the actual taste - which is really rather like tangy flour water - but forcing yourself to drink what appears at first sight to be either curdled milk or soggy wallpaper paste. Your mind is telling you that anything that looks this congealed must be both disgusting and dangerous, and I ended up closing my eyes to keep the gag reflux at bay.

If you ever have to drink Readi-Cat, I suggest refrigerating it first, which creates the temporary illusion that you are drinking a milkshake. A wholly unappealing milkshake, mind you, but I imagine that trying to drink this nauseating nectar at room temperature or higher would be akin to drinking a talcum powder smoothie.

I had to drink eight ounces at 11:00 pm last night and gulp down another eight ounces at 6:30 this morning, and all the while I was denied water and food until after the test. After a purgatorial delay of almost an hour at the Flower Hospital outpatient registration, I headed off to the CT scan.

At which point they handed me another eight ounces of Readi-Cat.

So there I was, thinking I was in the clear, when the technician informed me that the my previous two forays into the world of Readi-Cat were not enough. Unfortunately, there was no place to discreetly toss the repellent cup of loathsome liquid, and I choked down another three mouthfuls. I managed to engage in calming self-talk that kept me from heaving back up this revolting elixir, but the last dose was nearly a one-way ride to Upchuckville.

Feel free to commiserate in the comments section on the evils of Readi-Cat, on other noxious medicinal products, or even how you secretly enjoy the taste of liquefied barium sulfate.


Anonymous said...

Sounds really gross!

Anonymous said...

Eww, I didn't know they still made people drink that raw. Last time I went for a CT, to my surprise, they offered me banana or vanilla flavor! I chose the banana and it was actually pretty tasty.

Middle Aged Woman said...

Wait until you have to have a colonoscopy. 2 liters of salty-sweet liquid, that has the consistency of mucus. It makes the suppositories look like the pleasant part of the prep.

historymike said...

The Soles:

I think some flavor might have made REadi-Cat more palatable.

historymike said...


I survived two colonoscopies so far, but I do not recall getting any liquid prep like that.

I DO recall being given an industrial-strength version of the laxative known as Ducolax (bisacodyl). About 4 hours after ingesting this medicine I experienced the most excruciating evacuative hours of my life.

Think "Colon Blow" and double that effect.

Anonymous said...

I was at Flower yesterday (6/12) for a small bowel series and could not believe the wait to get registered! I've been in there recently for a CT Scan (I didn't think the barium drink was too bad) and MRI. For both of those, registration took 2 minutes. Yesterday, there wasn't even a place to sit down! No explanation from the staff or anything. Since I hadn't had anything to eat or drink since midnight, I was glad to have the barium they gave me to drink before the xrays!

Mad Jack said...

Colonoscopy? I'll just die if it's all the same to you...

The texture of the 'drink this' slop didn't bother me. The taste was something on the order of talcum powder added to a poorly constructed milk shake made with powdered milk and powdered eggs.

Medical procedures in general leave me pretty cold - headed to room temperature, so to speak - and the attitudes of the medical staff involved contribute heavily to this.

On my last visit to the ER I ended up declining part of the treatment, as it had nothing to do with my malady. The doctor was trying to make a few extra bucks at the expense of the patient.

Good luck with your medical situation, and remember that they do not always have your best interests at heart.

historymike said...


I was at the Flower Registration just after 8:00 am, and it was just short of a madhouse. There was not enough seating for the two dozen people waiting to get registered for testing, and people were really grumbling.

One fellow poked his head in the doorway, saw the crowd, and asked me the wait.

"About an hour," I told him.

His prfane response I will not repeat, suffice to say that it involved an F-bomb. He left to get his bloodwork done somewhere else.

historymike said...


Agreed that the treatments suggested by medical professionals are not always needed.

My 93-year-old grandfather just got a hernia during physical therapy for his arthritic knee while using a rowing machine. They sent him to a cardiologist who wanted to give him a stress test before okaying him for surgery.

My grandfather told him the following:

"Jesus Christ - I'm 93 years old! If my heart gives out during hernia surgery, then maybe it's just my time. It's not like I haven't already lived a long goddamn life!"

They okayed him for surgery after that convincing argument.

Anonymous said...

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Da Doo Run Run said...

Drank the Readi-CAT today in berry flavor. Had to drink an entire bottle two hours before my procedure and then another bottle one hour before my procedure. It was vile. As you note, the consistency was the problem. I think I will have nightmares about it tonight.

Anonymous said...

Hey I have to drink Readi-Cat tomorrow morning at 8am & then another bottle 30min before my appt. I'm nervous about drinking it after reading that the side-effects include abdominal pain. That's the reason I'm getting the test done in the first place. I don't want anymore pain ontop of what I already have. Did anyone experience abdominal pain?? Or vomiting?? I can't stand vomit (Yuck!)

Anonymous said...

Just be glad you don't have cancer. I'm in remission and have to drink 1.5 of those bottles every 3 months. This is after fasting. Suck it up and suck it down, be thankful that you might have to have it done once every year.

Anonymous said...

Forgot to mention - Don't make any plans for the rest of the day. It upsets my intestinal track something fierce!

Retired Engineer said...

Dr. Mike, I read your page last night before my adventure with Readi-CAT this morning. I found all the advice to be helpful, especially the suggestion to stir the stuff with a spoon instead of shaking it. I was lucky, I guess. I was given the "Orange Creme" flavor. Not so much a flavor as an odorant, a lot like the bathroom deodorants I have smelled in some commercial establishments. But getting the mixture down and keeping it there was no problem and I enjoyed an uneventful CT. Worst part for me is the gas that builds up in your system. I have been passing enormous quantities of gas all day since the CT, much the same as you would after a colonoscopy. And one other interesting side effect: because the orange flavoring is more like an odorant or scent than a flavor, it was absorbed and excreted by my body in an unusual way. The stuff has no taste to speak of, but the orange scent makes it psychologically easier to get down. Well, once we got home in the heat my wife noticed that she could smell that same orange scent coming out of my body in my sweat! Smelled it all day, in my clothes, my breath, on my skin - and the wife was complaining only yesterday about the smell of garlic on my skin after eating some roasted garlic Triscuit crackers! Maybe this has something to do with why mosquitoes don't bite me!
Thanks for the article and the advice - and thanks for the opportunity to leave a comment!

The Middle Child said...

I have to drink this stuff tomorrow. My dear mother is picking it up for me today so that I can refrigerate it even though it says "keep at room temperature". I am not looking forward to this at all. Hoping for a clean CT as I am too busy to be dealing with medical issues on top of everything else. But if I have to make time for myself then I will. Some of the comments on here have given me hope that I will be able to keep the vile liquid down though, thanks guys and gals!


Anonymous said...

I had to drink not one, not two, but three bottles of this. I got banana and the taste wasn't horrible. The texture though, much like you described, was like wallpaper paste. Unfortunately, I was in for digestive problems and this stuff messed me up. Badly. And trying not to puke even though I haven't had to drink it in almost two hours now. Fun. Lol again taste is fine but texture. Rech.

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