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Friday, July 16, 2010

MRI Contrast Material: A Deadly View?

Gadolinium contrast agents are used in MRIs (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) to help medical technicians view tumors, growths, cancers or other tissue and organ disorders that they would not ordinarily be able to view on a traditional x-ray.

This clear liquid that is made with the rare earth metal Gadolinium is injected into the body intravenously and collects in abnormal tissue. The magnetic field produced by the MRI affects the paramagnetic metal material in the liquid causing it to form a pretty clear image in the affected area.

Gadolinium is toxic to humans in its organic form, but in a chelated form, can be tolerated and flushed out of the body by the kidneys after the procedure is over. However, manufacturers of Gadolinium contrast agents failed to inform doctors and MRI technicians that it was not safe for patients with severe kidney failure.

In these patients, the kidneys are not able to handle the level of toxicity that the contrast material possesses. Severe reactions to Gadolinium contrast agent have occurred including development of a serious condition known as Gadolinium Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis (NSF).

This disease is characterized by a thickening, hardening or scarring of skin tissues, the eyes, major internal organs and joints. Not only is it painful and ulcerative, it can also produce death if the disease progresses to the point of seriously affecting the kidneys and liver.

There is no cure for NSF and treatment options are limited. The first recorded reaction to Gadolinium contrast material happened in 1997, but it wasn’t until May of 2007 that the FDA issued strict requirements for black box warnings to manufacturers.

The four main brands of Gadolinium contrast agents are Magnevist, Omniscan, OptiMARK and Multihance. Bayer Healthcare distributes Magnevist and the company began settling in 2009 some of the lawsuits originating from injuries associated with the use of Gadolinium contrast material.

GE Healthcare manufactures Omniscan, Bracco Diagnostics distributes Multihance and Mallinckrodt Inc. produces OptiMARK.

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