MRI Dye/Gadolinium Side Effects

Gadolinium is a contrast agent used to enhance the images on MRIs and MRAs. While there are several companies that manufacture gadolinium products, all of these products have the potential to lead to Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis (NSF) or Nephrogenic Fibrosing Dermopathy (NFD) – a serious and potentially deadly side effect of gadolinium exposure. Dan Thornburgh, a Florida attorney whose practice focuses in drug and medical device litigation, provided more information in a recent interview.

What is gadolinium?

Gadolinium is a contrast agent used to enhance the images on MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging) and MRAs (magnetic resonance angiography), according to Thornburgh. “When a doctor orders an MRI to rule out or rule in certain conditions, they use a type of x-ray machine to enhance images. Gadolinium is a contrast agent used in these procedures to enhance those images. It’s a chemical or toxin that is not found in the human body.”

Who manufactures gadolinium?

There are several manufacturers, according to Thornburgh. “General Electric manufactures Omniscan, Bayer manufactures Magnivist, Tyco manufacturers OptiMark and Bracco manufactures both Multihance and Prohance.”

Potential deadly side effects

Thornburgh told us that gadolinium, when used in patients with certain health conditions such as kidney failure, kidney insufficiency and liver transplant cases, the toxic gadolinium doesn’t move through the body as fast as somebody with normal kidney functions. He explained:

As a result, some people have developed conditions called Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis (NSF) or Nephrogenic Fibrosing Dermopathy (NFD). People with underlying kidney or liver disease are at an increased risk of developing this condition which can be life altering and can even result in death.

People with this condition develop sort of a woody hard skin, lesions on their body, dark patches on the body and have burning and itching sensations. The hardening process also causes contractures which can become so serious that individuals have a hard time moving, and in some cases, can’t ambulate at all.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there. The lesions that develop on the skin can also develop in organs of the body and this can lead to organ failure. So some of the cases where we see people dying from the drug or from the condition have been from organ failure because it has moved to organs or due to falls because the contractures are so bad that their ability to move has become so limited that they fall and suffer a head injury.

No cure for NSF/NFD

There is no cure for NSF/NFD, according to Thornburgh. “NSF is a fairly new disease. There are no cures to my knowledge. There are treatments but they are limited and are really done to help alleviate the pain and the suffering that these people are going through.”

400 product liability lawsuits filed

There are approximately 400 product liability lawsuits currently pending against gadolinium manufacturers which allege that these companies knew about the risks, but failed to warn consumers. Thornburg said, “It’s terrible and again, we see the same problem in this drug as we do in all these cases. The companies who manufacture these products have a duty to find out what risks are associated with the product. Yet, they either find out what the risks are and don’t warn consumers about it or they do everything they can not to test for the risks.”