Gadolinium, a silvery metallic element, is a primary component of some dyes used in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans. When a gadolinium-based dye is injected before an MRI, the images produced are easier to read because the dye creates a contrast.

However, while MRIs are essential diagnostic tools, use of gadolinium has been found to cause serious health problems and possibly death, especially for those who already have kidney conditions.

How Gadolinium Works

Gadolinium is an effective contrasting agent for MRIs because, after injection into a vein, it:

  • flows through the tissues in the body
  • builds up in areas where abnormal tissues have started to accumulate
  • makes abnormal tissues appear brighter, or more enhanced, in the resulting MRI
  • is ultimately expelled from the body via the kidneys

Gadolinium Agents by Brand Name

MRI contrasting fluids that contain gadolinium will have different brand names, depending on the company that manufactures the agent. The most common brand name contrasting agents that contain gadolinium include:

  • Magnevist, produced by Berlex Laboratories, Inc.
  • Omniscan, manufactured by Nycomed Amersham plc
  • ProHance, made by Bracco Diagnostics, Inc.Keep in mind that gadolinium itself can also be referred to by various names; Gadolinium-DPTA and gadodiamide are other terms commonly used to refer to gadolinium.

Gadolinium Side Effects and Health Complications

Although gadolinium can be a helpful tool in many diagnostic processes, it does have some associated side effects, including:

  • headaches
  • hives and/or itchiness
  • lightheadedness
  • localized pain (at the injection site)
  • lowered blood pressure (though this side effect is extremely rare)
  • nausea

Unfortunately, recent studies have also found that those with renal (kidney) conditions are at risk of suffering from far more serious gadolinium side effects. In fact, the Danish Medicines Agency issued a press release in May 2006 describing how patients with kidney conditions are likely to develop the rare, yet serious condition known as Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis (NSF).

Gadolinium and NSF

The first case of NSF occurred in 1997, with its first corresponding description published in a medical journal in 2000. With NSF, patients start developing scar tissues (medically known as fibrosis) on their skin and within their connective tissues. As fibrosis continues, the thickened tissues hinder mobility, preventing patients from being able to fully bend or extend various joints. Overtime, NSF scar tissue can spread to the organs, possibly affecting the diaphragm, lungs and other organs in the abdominal cavity. If left untreated, NSF is fatal.

If you or a loved one has received gadolinium and has developed NSF or other health complications, contact us today. You may be entitled to compensation for your injury, and we’ll be happy to explain your rights and options.

Published November 17, 2011 by