Commonly, a type of intravenous drug known as a contrast agent is used to improve the visibility of internal structures during an MRI. A new research article verifies past claims that some of these contrast agents pass the blood brain barrier and leave behind a potentially toxic metal.
Gadolinium-based contrast agents (GBCAs) have been used over the past 25 years in more than 100 million patients around the world. Their safety profile was believed to be exceptional, since just 0.03 percent of all administrations resulted in negative side effects for patients. These commonly used compounds are based on, as their name suggest, gadolinium; this metal ion moves differently within a magnetic field and that’s the reason it is used during an MRI.
Unfortunately, gadolinium is known to be toxic. In its most recent warning, the FDA decided all GBCA labels must emphasize the need to screen patients for kidney dysfunction before administration of these drugs. In particular, FDA selected three GBCAs — Magnevist, Omniscan, and Optimark — as requiring labels with additional emphasis on the inappropriateness of their use among patients with acute kidney injury or chronic severe kidney disease.
Source: Kanal E, Tweedle MF. Residual or Retained Gadolinium: Practical Implications for Radiologists and Our Patients. Radiology. 2015.
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