When patients have an MRI/MRA, they must ingest a blue liquid contrast medium. Many people do not think twice about the requirement or just wonder how it relates to the test results. If you are about to have an MRI/MRA, it is important to understand what gadolinium contrast agentis and how it functions.
What Is Gadolinium Contrast Agent?
Gadolinium is a dye that you take before undergoing an MRI/MRA scans; it’s a contrast agentthat enhances images seen on the test. It gives the radiologist more information to write a report that is significantly more thorough than an MRI/MRA without contrast and will help your doctor better diagnose your ailment.
Do I Need It?
About one in three MRI scans use gadolinium contrast agent to enhance test image quality. Whether you need the dye depends on the details of your specific medical circumstances. The radiologist will analyze your case before starting the MRI and decide if the contrast agent would be helpful to the doctor. Certain conditions, such as pregnancy and kidney disease, might make the contrast agent physically harmful, so you will not receive any if the dye could impact your health condition.
If the radiologist determines that you should have gadolinium contrast agent for your scan, a nurse will inject you with it prior to the scan. You have a right to refuse it or seek further medical advice. If the radiologist stops the scan in the middle and requests a gadolinium contrast agent injection for you, do not assume something is seriously wrong. The technician may have realized that the images would not be clear enough without the dye.
Is Gadolinium Harmful?
Headlines during the past eight months have talked about the potential risks of gadolinium poisoning. There is much debate in the medical community about whether it has harmful effects on patients. Though some patients have exhibited negative symptoms, many medical professionals are unsure about whether gadolinium directly caused them.
Lack of Evidence
Although some patients that have reported medical issues after injections, many medical professionals are hesitant to believe that it is harmful because of a lack of evidence showing that there is a direct correlation between the dye and the symptoms. Over the past 20 years, physicians have used gadolinium in hundreds of thousands of patients. Very few of these patients reported harmful side effects.
One new piece of information is that gadolinium can accumulate and stay in tissues, including the brain, after the scan is over. Medical professionals had thought that it left the body entirely. Researchers around the country are conducting studies to determine the effects of long-term gadolinium retention.
The Food and Drug administration agrees with many medical professionals and is not imposing aggressive regulations because of the lack of evidence. In September 2017, the FDA’s Medical Imaging Drugs Advisory Committee voted to require that labels include warnings about possible gadolinium retention in the body. The FDA is also initiating more patient education about gadolinium and requiring that vendors conduct additional studies about its safety. However, the FDA has stated that it believes the benefits of using it outweigh the possible risks and is not banning it from use.
Gadolinium deposition, the retention and build-up of gadolinium in tissues, was just recently discovered. The two main types of gadoliniums are linear and macrocyclic agents. Multiple studies have shown that brains retain more linear agents. Recent studies, however, show that macrocyclic agents also leave some gadolinium in the brain.
When gadolinium is manufactured, specific ingredients are added to decrease its toxicity. These ingredients make it exponentially safer. One theory suggests that if the gadolinium retained in the brain remains in a dormant, imprisoned state, it will not harm the brain. If it pops off the base molecule, however, it could lead to diseases. Researchers are still unsure about the potential extent of the damage.
Medical professionals and researchers believe it is too early to be certain of gadolinium safety. Today, it is still in use in the United States because the evidence for correlation is not significant enough to stop use completely. However, as some of the current studies finish and are released, the medical community will be able to ascertain more about the dangers of gadolinium use.
If you or a loved one has experienced difficulties after an MRI/MRA call us, we can help. Get a FREE consultation with a personal injury attorney today.
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