Gadolinium, an MRI Contrast Agent, May Cause Gadolinium Deposition Disease
If you’ve ever had an MRI for examination of soft tissues such as organs or muscles, you may remember your radiologist administering a contrast agent to improve the quality of the image produced. The healthcare professional may have referred to this as a “dye” to simplify matters. This contrast agent may contain an earth metal called gadolinium, and that substance has been linked to an increased risk for a disease called Gadolinium Deposition Disease, or GDD.
What is Gadolinium?
Gadolinium (Gd) itself is a rare earth metal used in intravenous drugs called GBCAs, or Gadolinium Based Contrast Agents.
How is Gadolinium Used?
GBCAs (often referred to as “contrast agents” or “dyes”) are used to enhance the quality of MRIs (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) or MRAs (Magnetic Resonance Angiography). Commonly used in imaging centers since 1988, gadolinium is administered in up to half of all examinations. Use of this contrast agent allows medical professionals to better enhance the image quality of soft tissues and organs in the body.
The Problem With Gadolinium
Unlike other heavy metals such as lead or mercury, the only way for gadolinium to enter the body is through the administration of GBCAs. GBCAs are meant to be cleared through the kidneys, however, that is not necessarily the case. Concerns regarding the toxicity of gadolinium have been raised over the past several years. Further, the FDA has acknowledged that gadolinium is retained in the body rather than eliminated through normal kidney functions as initially thought.
Gadolinium Deposition Disease is a potential adverse health condition related to the retention of gadolinium in the body. Symptoms of GDD include:
- Swelling, tightening or thickening of the skin
- Itching, burning and/or severe pain
- Persistent headaches
- “Brain fog”
- Bone or joint pain
- Tightness in hands and feet
- Limited joint movement in arms, hands, legs and feet
Additionally, studies have shown gadolinium to trigger the development of NSF, or nephrogenic sysystemic fibrosis, in those with advanced kidney disease or other renal issues. While a different illness than GDD, NSF does exhibit similar symptoms. NSF can affect the heart, kidneys and lungs by causing joint contracture. In some cases, NSF improves. However, in other cases, it may cause severe disabilities or potentially death. In 2008, an MDL, or multidistrict litigation, was formed, centralizing all cases involving gadolinium and NSF. Plaintiffs were successful in arguing the manufacturers of the contrast dye failed to warn about the risks of developing NSF. Ultimately, the FDA added a black box warning on the product.
Actor and martial artist Chuck Norris is suing several healthcare companies including McKesson Crop. and Bracco S.p.A., claiming the contrast agent used in his wife’s MRI scans caused debilitating long-term issues. The Norrises argue the “dye” ultimately caused burning pain throughout her body, numbness, tingling, and violent shaking as well as cognitive issues and kidney damage.
What is the United States Doing About the Gadolinium Risks?
While other countries such as the UK, Italy, Japan, and Singapore have either recalled or suspended linear GBCAs, the US has not yet done so. In 2015 the FDA announced it was investigating the risk of brain deposits following repeated us of GBCAs in MRIs. By May 2017, the FDA claimed it failed to identify any adverse health effects. However, in September of 2017 the Medical Imaging Drug Advisory Committee (MIDAC) recommended a warning label identifying the risk of gadolinium retention be added to the product. On 12/19/17, the US FDA issued a warning regarding the increased risk for retention in the brain and recommended health professionals consider the risks pregnant women, children and patients with inflammatory or kidney conditions.
Identifying gadolinium retention is fairly easy and can typically be detected in a simple urine test or by using blood, hair or nail samples. If you’ve experienced symptoms listed above and suspect you may have GDD, contact a product liability attorney right away. Please be aware there exists a statute of limitations, which is the period of time within which you must commence your action in a court or be forever barred. There is no cure for Gadolinium Deposition Disease, and we are working to Get Justice for those affected by this condition. Contact the lawyers at The Ruth Law Team at 888-783-8378, or fill out the contact form on this page.
We are representing patients injured by MRI contrast Nationwide.