MRIs (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and MRAs (Magnetic Resonance Angiogram) are scans that allow doctors and medical professionals to view tissues, blood vessels and other organs. MRIs and MRAs can aid in the detection of illnesses and abnormalities that cannot be identified during x-rays, such as tumors, heart disease, and organ lesions. Using an MRI scanner, it is possible to make pictures of almost all the tissue in the body. Tissue that has the least hydrogen atoms (such as bones) appears dark, while tissue that has many hydrogen atoms (such as fatty tissue) appears much brighter. The use of gadolinium based contrast agents can enhance the quality of the MRI or MRA image, making detection of medical issues easier. Unfortunately, gadolinium has been linked to the development of Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis (NSF) in patients with kidney disease.
Gadolinium and Kidney Patients
People who have kidney problems should not receive a gadolinium-containing contrast agent during MRIs or MRAs. Gadolinium puts kidney patients at a high risk for developing the potentially life-threatening nephrogenic systemic fibrosis, also known as nephrogenic fibrosing dermopathy. Healthy people do not have a risk of developing this disease because they are able to flush the gadolinium out of their systems. People with pre-existing kidney problems cannot do this as easily, leaving gadolinium in their bodies for an extended period of time. Nephrogenic systemic fibrosis causes swelling and tightening of the skin and can affect joints, eyes and internal organs.
Those with advanced kidney failure can develop gastrointestinal bleeding and ulcers. People with diabetes can develop kidney disease when large amounts of protein are present in urine, blood pressure rises and kidney failure eventually occurs. If you have kidney disease, you should speak to a doctor before undergoing a gadolinium-based MRI. A gadolinium lawyer should be contacted if you have developed nephrogenic systemic fibrosis as a result of a gadolinium-based injection.
Preparation for MRIs and MRAs
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Magnetic Resonance Angiogram (MRA) are scans that allow doctors to spot abnormalities in tissues, blood vessels and organs. A MRI contrast agent, possibly gadolinium, is injected into the patient to improve the quality of the images allowing the doctor a great chance of spotting a disease. Unfortunately, recent studies show a link between gadolinium and the potentially deadly nephrogenic systemic fibrosis (NSF), also known as nephrogenic fibrosing dermopathy. This disease, which causes hardening and tightening of the skin, eyes, joints and organs, developed in people who had preexisting kidney problems.
Before you undergo a MRI or MRA, it is important to tell your doctor of any existing kidney conditions. Those with kidney problems have difficulty flushing out gadolinium after a MRI or MRA, which requires a much larger dose of the contrast agent. It is also important, because of the strong magnetic field in the room, to let your doctor know if you have a pacemaker, dentures, joint replacement, hearing aid, insulin pump, heart valve prosthesis or any other item that may be hazardous in the MRI. It is also important to let the MRI technologist know if you are or might be pregnant.
Prior to the exam, you can eat as you normally would and take any medicine needed. You will be asked to wear a hospital gown once arriving to the radiology department. For your safety, objects that can be attracted to magnets should be removed before entering the room. Items that are prohibited from the scanning area include keys, watches, jewelry, glasses, belt buckles, coins, credit cards and money clips.
Questions for your Doctor
Gadolinium allowed doctors to more clearly view abnormal tissue and tumors within the body during MRIs and MRAs, but now this contrast agent has been linked to nephrogenic systemic fibrosis (NSF). Also known as nephrogenic fibrosing dermotherapy, this potentially life threatening disease causes fibrosis of the eyes, skin, joints and internal organs.
If you are experiencing side effects from a gadolinium injection, it is important to seek medical attention. Visit a doctor who did not inject you with the substance while you had kidney problems. If you visit the physician who administered the injection, there may be a conflict of interest as this healthcare professional may be partially responsible for the development of your side effects. During this meeting with the doctor, detail your kidney problems, the approximate date of your gadolinium injection, as well as symptoms and side effects from the drug. You can also ask the doctor for a diagnosis and prognosis for the disease. Discuss treatment options, recovery time and inquire if the gadolinium injection caused your side effects. If you discover you have developed nephrogenic systemic fibrosis after a gadolinium injection, contact a gadolinium lawyer today.