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Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a medical test that physicians use to diagnose or monitor treatment for several conditions within the chest, abdomen and pelvis. MRIs use a powerful magnetic field, radio frequency pulses and a computer to produce detailed images of organs, soft tissues, bone and all other internal body structures to help detect abnormalities in organs, blood vessels and other tissues.

The correlation between MRIs and gadolinium

Often, before performing an MRI, the physician or nurse will insert an intravenous (IV) catheter into a vein in the patient’s hand or arm. Once, the IV has been inserted, the health professional will inject the patient with gadolinium-based contrast agents (GBCAs). GBCAs are utilized to enhance MRI images to aid in determining a diagnosis.

How do gadolinium-based contrast agents enhance MRIs? 

Gadolinium-Based Contrast Agents (GBCA) are made from the rare earth heavy metal, gadolinium. The substance is an element on the Periodic Table with an atomic number 64. This rare element’s inner orbits get partially filled with electrons and become temporarily magnetized when placed in a magnetic field. The chelates of gadolinium are used as MRI agents to produce higher quality images of MRI to make it easier to pinpoint a medical condition.  When gadolinium is present in the body, it changes the contrast of the MRI to improve visibility of internal body structures. GBCAs accomplish this by improving the visibility of blood vessels, inflammation and tumors and improve the accuracy of the MRI scan.

GBCAs are mostly eliminated from the body through the kidneys after being administered. However, Gadolinium accumulated in the body, in some cases, results in various side effects. The FDA has reported, “trace amounts of gadolinium may stay in the body long-term.”

Are MRIs dangerous? 

The popular contrast dye used in MRIs has been linked to serious, painful adverse effects due to the gadolinium accumulating in the brain and other parts of the body.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a safety announcement advising consumers that they are currently investigating the risk of brain deposits. The announcement comes after years of growing concerns about gadolinium retention in healthy people.  A growing number of victims report symptoms of gadolinium deposition disease after just a single injection of GBCAs.

The FDA does not currently require manufacturers to make changes to the labels of GBCA products. They have, however, announced that healthcare professionals should limit GBCA use in clinical circumstances that make it necessary.

As mentioned, there is evidence that gadolinium does not always leave the body as quickly as drug manufacturers advised. In patients with normal kidney function, the bulk of the substance should be expelled from the body through urine and feces within two hours after the injection. The rest is said to expel within 96 hours. However, studies have found that gadolinium can be retained in various parts of the body for months to year after just one injection—even in patients with healthy kidney function. This puts patients at risk of exposure to excess gadolinium and intracranial accumulation of the heavy metal. Gadolinium retention is linked to several medical conditions including:

  • Gadolinium deposition disease
  • Nephrogenic systemic fibrosis
  • Gadolinium storage condition

What is Gadolinium Deposition Disease? 

Gadolinium deposition disease refers to patients who have normal kidney function but develop painful symptoms within a few hours up to several weeks after the initial injection of a gadolinium contrast agent. Symptoms include the following:

  • Burning or cutting pain in the body
  • Pain in bones and joints
  • Tightness of hands and feet
  • Persistent headaches
  • Vision and hearing problems
  • Itchy skin
  • Mental confusion know as brain fog
  • Nausea and/or vomiting

The kidneys play a vital role in getting rid of the chemical particles. Therefore, patients with kidney problems are advised to avoid GBCAs. The substance is not always completely removed in patients with renal failure, leading to an increased risk of nephrogenic systemic fibrosis.

What is Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis? 

Nephrogenic systemic fibrosis (NSF) is a rare disease in which renal insufficiency is linked to gadolinium retention. The problem with NSF is that the gadolinium cannot be removed from the body adequately due to the patient’s kidney problems, which can be fatal.

After the exposure to gadolinium-containing contrast, symptoms of Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis can begin within days and progress rapidly. Symptoms include:

  • Tightening and swelling of the skin
  • Skin thickening and hardening of the body excluding the face
  • Woody feel of the skin
  • Darkening of the skin
  • Loss of joint flexibility
  • Blisters and ulcers
  • Muscle weakness
  • Bone pain
  • Blood clots
  • Yellow plaques on the sclera of the eyes

The FDA advises individuals suffering from chronic disease or injury to avoid exposure to gadolinium.

What is Gadolinium Storage Condition?

Gadolinium storage condition is referring to patients who have normal renal function but have left over gadolinium in their brain tissue, bones and other parts of their body.

Individuals who take multiple lifetime doses of gadolinium-based contrast agents (GBCAs), pregnant patients, children and patients with inflammatory conditions are at the highest risk of gadolinium retention.

Additional side effects linked to gadolinium

Aside from the link to the conditions discussed previously, gadolinium contrast may also cause additional severe side effects.

Severe side effects

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Swelling of the throat or other parts of the body
  • Convulsions
  • Low blood pressure

Moderate reactions

  • Skin rash or hives
  • Wheezing
  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • High or low blood pressure
  • Shortness of breath/difficulty breathing

Mild reactions

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Itching
  • Mild skin rash or hives

Do I need to hire a gadolinium lawyer?

If you or a loved one has suffered from gadolinium toxicity, don’t hesitate to contact a Gadolinium lawyer immediately. You may be entitled to compensation for the harm caused to you as a result of a gadolinium-based contrast agent. A qualified gadolinium lawyer who knows the ins and outs of these highly complex cases and can help you navigate the legal system. Having an experienced attorney in your corner will be your best chance to obtain fair compensation for your losses.

How The Carlson Law Firm can help

The Carlson Law Firm is committed to protecting the rights of those harmed by dangerous drugs. We have been holding negligent drug manufacturers accountable for over 40 years. Our qualified and experienced team will use our valuable resources to not only pursue maximum compensation on your behalf but also ensure you are getting the medical assistance you need. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation. We care, we can help.

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