Gadolinium is a contrast agent commonly used in MRI scans. The metal ion used in contrast agents enhances the clarity of MRI images. Normally, the ions are linked to a chelating agent that aids the body in excretion. Patients with normal kidney function typically eliminate all gadolinium within 24 hours. However, recent research suggests that small amounts of gadolinium can be retained in the tissues, including the brain. Gadolinium side effects are characterized by an alarming burning feeling as though the skin has been bathed in acid. The arms and legs stop working, it is difficult to think, and the body’s critical organs become impaired.

Gadolinium Toxicity

The symptoms of Gadolinium toxicity depend on which condition the patient has. Previously, a rare but serious condition known as Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis was the target of lawsuits. More recently, the focus has been on the precursor to that condition, referred to as Gadolinium Deposition Disease or “GDD.”

Gadolinium Deposition Disease

Gadolinium Deposition Disease is a condition that occurs if the contrast agent gadolinium remains in the body for an extended period of time. Leading Radiology and Gadolinium Toxicity Expert Dr. Richard Semelka says there are six primary gadolinium MRI contrast side effects that occur in order to diagnose GDD: 

  • Intense Skin Burning – Patients report it all over the body or localized to the trunk or distal extremities.
  • Intense Boring Pain in Bones or Joints – Pain often affects the peripheral joints, but may affect major joints like the knee or hip; bone pain can occur anywhere, but is most often regionalized to the ribs.
  • Brain Fog – Early on, patients feel confused and disoriented, with difficulty focusing or remembering.
  • Muscle Twitches and Pins & Needles Sensation – Onset is concurrent with the brain fog and indicates nerve disease (neuropathy).
  • Head Pain – The headaches are unlike any other type of headache experienced, with a burning pain and the sensation that a tight bathing cap has been placed over the entire head.
  • Skin Thickening, Discoloration, & Pain – In the late stages, the arms and legs become tight, stiff, red, and difficult to move.

In addition to these severe symptoms, patients may experience gastrointestinal upsets, abdominal pain, and diarrhea, as well as abnormal hearth rhythms. Some patients report olfactory abnormalities and a metallic taste in their mouths.

GDD contrast dye side effects begin within a minute to one month after a gadolinium-based contrast agent has been administered. To be diagnosed with GDD, the patient must experience at least three of these symptoms as new side effects, not preexisting conditions. A 24-hour urine test should be performed 30 days or more after the contrast-enhanced MRI. After a year, a provoked urine test may be needed after exposing the body to chelating agents like DTPA or EDTA, which will bind to the gadolinium still in the body.

NSF

Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis (NSF) is an extremely rare condition – affecting less than 5% of people with reduced kidney function — but it is potentially life-threatening. NSF is characterized by:

  • Skin Symptoms – The skin gradually tightens or thickens. Symmetric Red or darkened patches on the legs and arms are common. Itchiness, swelling, and shininess may occur. Brown, flesh-colored, or red papules arising from the skin have been reported. Most severely, the skin can harden to the touch so that it looks like an orange peel look, with chronic pain and loss of flexibility.
  • Joint Contractures – Similar loss of flexibility in the joints can cause them to become permanently flexed or straightened, restricting the ability to walk.
  • Muscle Weakness – The arms and legs suffer easy fatigue.
  • Yellow Eyes – The whites of the eyes turn yellow.
  • Organ Impairment – The lungs, heart, esophagus, and diaphragm may suffer dysfunction. Breathing complications are common, as is an impaired ability to pump blood through the body.

The first in hundreds of NSF lawsuit to go to trial resulted in a $5 million decision in favor of the plaintiff in 2014. The decision was appealed, but ultimately upheld.

Treatment for Gadolinium Poisoning

For patients suffering from Gadolinium Deposition Disease, chelation therapy is the most common approach. By introducing a binding agent to the body, the metal ions will form into a more chemically stable compound that can be safely excreted from the body.

However, there are many drawbacks to chelation therapy:

  • Chelation therapy is only FDA-approved for the removal of lead.
  • There are no studies that indicate chelation therapy is more effective than placebos.
  • It is not covered by insurance and costs $100 to $250 per session.
  • The chelating agent can also remove much-needed calcium and zinc from the body.
  • Patients undergoing this therapy report improvement in the severity of their symptoms, but are not 100% cured.

In addition to chelation therapy, much treatment is centered on improving gadolinium MRI dye side effects of the skin. Saunas and Epsom salt baths are said to relieve some of the pain and aid in the release of toxins. Healthy eating, as advised by naturopathic doctors, can reduce muscle weakness and gastrointestinal upsets. Improving kidney function is another step doctors may recommend in aiding the body to rid itself of toxins.

Prognosis for Gadolinium Deposition Disease

Gadolinium Deposition Disease is a progressive disease, with no known cure. The condition was only formally recognized within the past few years, so much research is needed to figure out how to more effectively treat the myriad of painful symptoms associated with gadolinium accumulation in the body. Given the dire prognosis and untold suffering caused by gadolinium side effects, it is not surprising many sufferers and their family members are filing Gadolinium Deposition Disease lawsuits seeking justice, as well as compensation to cover their ongoing medical care and disability.

Additional Gadolinium Toxicity Resources:

  1. com, Head Pain is a diagnostic feature of Gadolinium Deposition Disease, https://gadoliniumtoxicity.com/2018/05/19/head-pain-is-diagnostic-feature-of-gdd/#more-2091
  2. org, Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis, https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/nephrogenic-systemic-fibrosis/
  3. FindLaw, DECKER v. GE HEALTHCARE INC GE AS, https://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-6th-circuit/1681196.html