Torsten Almén (1931-2016): The father of non-ionic iodine contrast media

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The Swedish radiologist Torsten Almén is the first clinical radiologist ever to have made a fundamental contribution to intravascular contrast medium design, the development of non-ionic contrast media. He became emotionally triggered by the patients' severe pain each time he injected the ionic "high-osmolar" contrast media when performing peripheral arteriographies in the early 1960s. One day he got a flash of genius that combined the observation of pain, a pathophysiological theory and how to eliminate it with suitable contrast media chemistry. After self-studies in chemistry he developed the concept of iodine contrast media not dissociating into ions in solution to reduce their osmolality and even reach plasma isotonicity. He offered several pharmaceutical companies his concept of mono- and polymeric non-ionic agents but without response, since it was considered against the chemical laws of that time. Contrast media constructed as salts and dissociating into ions in solution was regarded an absolute necessity to achieve high enough water solubility and concentration for diagnostic purposes. Finally a small Norwegian company, Nyegaard & Co., took up his idea 1968 and together they developed the essentially painless "low-osmolar" monomeric non-ionic metrizamide (Amipaque) released in 1974 and iohexol (Omipaque) in 1982 followed by the "iso-osmolar" dimeric non-ionic iodixanol (Visipaque) released in 1993. This has implied a profound paradigm shift with regard to reduction of both hypertonic and chemotoxic side effects, which have been a prerequisite for the today's widespread use of contrast medium-enhanced CT and advanced endovascular interventional techniques even in fragile patients.


External organisations
  • Skåne University Hospital
  • Karolinska University Hospital
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Anesthesiology and Intensive Care


  • angiography, computed tomography, Contrast media, history, non-ionic, vascular
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1072-1078
Number of pages7
JournalActa Radiologica
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Sep 1
Publication categoryResearch