Gadolinium contrast agents have been used to conduct MRIs and diagnose serious medical conditions for decades. But recent research shows that Gadolinium can build up in the body, leading to dangerous side effects.
What is Gadolinium?
Gadolinium is a heavy metal chemical agent used in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exams. It is not a naturally occurring substance, so the only way it can enter the body is through an injection. Gadolinium has a half-life of approximately 90-120 minutes, and its presence in a person’s body can be confirmed by a urine test within 24 hours of injection or by using a heavy metal panel. There are two main types of gadolinium, macrocyclic and linear. Linear gadolinium is less stable than macrocyclic gadolinium and it tends to release its ions more freely once it is injected. Gadolinium is primarily manufactured by Bayer, but GE, Bracco, and Guerbet also produce gadolinium products.
Gadolinium MRI Contrast Toxicity
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Since 1988, Gadolinium based contrast agents (GBCA) have been injected more than 300 million times during the course of Gadolinium MRIs. Gadolinium uses its chemical properties to change the magnetism of water molecules in a patient’s body in order to brighten MRI images and help radiologists diagnose a wide variety of medical conditions.
Since 2007, the medical community has been aware that gadolinium can leave deposits in the bodies of patients with poor kidney function, causing further kidney damage or the disease NSF (nephrogenic systemic fibrosis). Many patients who were injured by gadolinium injections filed suit in 2008 and reached a successful settlement, however, that law suit only dealt with patients who already had kidney problems.
Now that research on gadolinium toxicity and deposits has progressed, studies are beginning to show that gadolinium does not leave the body of even a healthy patient as quickly as was once thought. These studies show that gadolinium deposits can be found in patients’ brains, bones, skin, and internal organs long after an MRI was completed. Because of this new development, in July 2017, the European Medicines Agency that ended the use of some linear gadolinium products. However, in the United States, the alarming development has not resulted in a ban on gadolinium contrast agents. Instead, in September 2017 the FDA voted to add a warning label about gadolinium retention. A few months later, the FDA also issued formal advice that health professionals should consider the possibility of long-term gadolinium deposits, especially when dealing with patients who have undergone multiple MRIs and determining whether a gadolinium contrast MRI is truly required.
While patients are now warned by a product label that gadolinium may remain in their bodies after an MRI, most providers do not discuss this danger with patients and informed consent about the possibility of gadolinium side effects is not always a standard practice. Few patients are aware that an MRI with macrocyclic gadolinium may also be available, which is concerning because that procedure does not expose patients to the same possibility of gadolinium retention after the MRI.
What are the possible side effects of gadolinium?
With evidence that deposits can remain in patients brains, skin, and organs after an MRI, gadolinium toxicity is an important issue that has gathered more attention in scientific research. An alarming number of patients are reporting an onset of symptoms within one to two months of a gadolinium contrast MRI, a condition doctors are beginning to call Gadolinium Deposition Disease or Gadolinium Storage Condition. These symptoms can include:
- Brain fog
- Sensation of skin burning and skin pain
- Bone and joint pain, especially in the limbs
- Shortening/shrinking of tendons and muscles
- Thickening or discoloration of the skin
In rare cases, some patients have reported that gadolinium deposits have led to serious diseases called nephrogenic systemic fibrosis (NSF) or Nephrogenic Fibrosing Dermopathy (NFD). These diseases affect the muscles, skin, and organs, and can be fatal in some cases.
Going forward, it is clear that the medical community needs more research on the long-term side effects of gadolinium retention. Until then, contrast MRIs should be used only when a radiologist determines it is absolutely necessary. Patients should have the right to be truly informed of the possibility that gadolinium may be deposited into their bodies and what side effects the procedure may cause.
Has Gadolinium affected you or someone you love?
Those who may be eligible for a gadolinium lawsuit should contact us for a free case evaluation. We work on a contingency-fee basis.