Medical Device:

Gadolinium Overview

Gadolinium was found by J. Gadolin in the late 1880s and became an element in 1886. Gadolinium can be used as a contrast dye in MRIs and MRAs and as a secondary source for nuclear power. This element is also used in color televisions, computer chips and compact discs. Unfortunately, gadolinium poses a high risk for a potentially fatal disease when used during MRIs in kidney patients.

Before the recent discovery of the harmful side effects of gadolinium, doctors praised the element because it allowed for better imaging in MRIs. Gadolinium produces a visible contrast in blood vessels, organs and tissues, which aids to more effectively view tumors or abnormal tissues. After receiving a MRI, healthy patients are able to flush out the element through their kidneys; however, this poses a problem to patients with pre-existing kidney problems. The gadolinium injection stays in the body for an extended period of time in kidney patients, which increases the risk of developing nephrogenic systemic fibrosis (NSF). Also known as nephrogenic fibrosing dermopathy, this disease causes fibrosis of the eyes, skin and joints. Hardening of the skin occurs, rendering some patients with nephrogenic systemic fibrosis immobile. A cure has yet to be discovered for this potentially deadly disease. The FDA has issued a warning on the dangers of gadolinium. Brand gadolinium drugs include Magnevist, MultiHance, Omniscan, OptiMARK and ProHance.

Gadolinium Questions

What is gadolinium?
Gadolinium is a paramagnetic metal ion. Paramagnetic ions, such as gadolinium, move differently within a magnetic field. This enables doctors and medical professionals to see a patient's internal organs, blood vessels, and tissue more clearly during magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

How many gadolinium-based contrast agents has the FDA approved?
There are five FDA approved gadolinium based contrast agents: MultiHance, Omniscan, OptiMARK, ProHance, and Magnevist.

What health problems are associated with gadolinium?
Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis (NSF) and Nephrogenic Fibrosing Dermopathy (NFD) have been linked to the use of gadolinium in MRI patients with pre-existing kidney problems. Because their bodies cannot expel the gadolinium, the extended gadolinium exposure may cause long term and irreversible health consequences for these patients. NSF and NFD are serious illnesses with no known cure. They can cause severely restricted joint movement, confinement to a wheelchair, and even death.

What is Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis (NSF)?
The first case of Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis (NSF) was identified in 1997, but the disease was not described in medical literature until 2000. The cause of NSF is not known, though it is believed to only occur in patients with severe kidney disease and is linked to the gadolinium based MRI contrast agents. NSF causes fibrosis of the skin and connective tissues throughout the body, causing a thinkening of the skin and severly decreased mobility of joints. NSF usually starts in the lower extremities and can also develop in the diaphragm, muscles in the thigh and lower abdomen, and lung vessels. Over time, NSF worsens and can cause death.

Do gadolinium based contrast agents cause Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis (NSF)?
The reports FDA has received, the published report of gadolinium deposits in the skin of patients with NSF/NFD, and other published medical reports suggest that gadolinium based contrast agents play a role in the development of NSF in patients with kidney problems. However, there is no definitive diagnosis.

Has Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis (NSF) been reported with all of the U.S.-approved gadolinium-based contrast agents?

Yes. NSF has been reported following the injection of all five FDA approved gadolinium based MRI contrast agents (Magnevist, MultiHance, Omniscan, OptiMARK, and ProHance).

How is gadolinium administered?
Gadolinium is typically administered via injection to the circulatory system prior to an MRI. In healthy patients it is filtered out of the body through the kidneys. However, in patients with serious kidney diseases or renal failure, this does not happen, causing prolonged exposure to the toxic chemical. This can result in the development of illnesses such as Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis, and other serious side effects.

Can an MRI or MRA be performed without gadolinium-based contrast agent?

Yes. MRIs and MRAs can be performed without contrast agents that involve exposure to gadolinium.

What should I do if I've been injured by gadolinium?
If you have been injured because of a gadolinium injection, you should speak with a gadolinium attorney as soon as possible. A qualified lawyer may be able to protect your rights against the manufacturers of the MRI contrast dye which lead to your injury, and help you recover damages for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages. A number of gadolinium exposure lawsuits have already been filed against the manufacturers of gadolinium contrast agents.