Gadolinium Toxicity

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New Study Reports Gadolinium Retention in 70 Cases with Normal Kidney Function

Full-disclosure, we are reporting on our own retention paper.

Today we have released our fourth research paper on gadolinium retention from Gadolinium-based Contrast Agents (GBCAs) administered for contrast-enhanced MRIs. The paper is titled “Gadolinium Retention from Contrast MRIs in 70 Cases with Normal Renal Function – 24-hour Urine Test Results”.

Drawing on the contrast MRI history and 24-hour gadolinium urine testing results information that we have received from members of the MRI-Gadolinium-Toxicity Support Group, we reported retrospectively on 70 cases with 120 urine test results.  We are thankful to the members of our support group for being willing to share their information with us.  The participants all had normal kidney function and report having symptoms of gadolinium toxicity. We believe the results reported are dramatic.

About the Gadolinium Retention Study

The number of results presented is up significantly from our last paper in 2014 when we reported on 15 cases and 40 test results.  The additional data points allowed us to look at gender as a possible differentiator, but the data showed nearly identical test results for males and females.  With information about the number of contrast-enhanced MRIs for each case, we were able to analyze the results in three groups: cases with a single contrast MRI, cases with 2 to 4 contrast MRIs, and cases with 5 or more contrast MRIs.  Readers of this site will not be surprised that the analysis showed that for these cases, there was a discernible difference in test results based on these groupings.  The 2 to 4 contrast group generally had higher levels of gadolinium in their urine for a longer period of time than those with a single contrast.  Likewise, the results for the 5 or more MRIs group were higher longer than the cases in the 2-4 contrast MRIs group.  This is consistent with the cumulative effect of multiple contrast-enhanced MRIs that others have reported.

We also provided the raw test results data for each case, enabling other researchers as well as patients to look at the progression of test results over time.  Averages for time blocks since the last contrast MRI are also shown to help in understanding the progression of gadolinium urine levels.

A few observations regarding the test results are revealing.  21 cases had urine tests performed in the first month with results that range from 507 mcg Gd/24hr urine specimen 4 days after the contrast MRI to results around 17 mcg Gd/24hr near the end of the first month.  All of the results are enumerated in the report.  8 cases had urine test results more than 36 months after their contrast MRI with results as high as 0.6 mcg Gd/24hr more than 7 years after the individual’s last contrast-enhanced MRI.  There is no broadly utilized acceptable range for gadolinium in a 24-hour urine collection. Mayo Clinic has established a reference range that was recently updated to be 0.0-0.6 mcg Gd/24-hour urine specimen collected more than 96 hours after administration of a GBCA.  40 cases had urine tests in the first 3 months after their contrast MRI, with the lowest result being 1.74 mcg Gd/24hr, well above the Mayo reference range that is applicable once four days have elapsed since the contrast MRI.  Simply stated the results we observed are inconsistent with the clearance times indicated on GBCA product labeling and the understanding of most researchers and clinical practitioners.

Final Thoughts

To the best of our knowledge, this is the most comprehensive reporting of retained gadolinium as evidenced by urine testing that is available to the public.  While the methods we used do not meet the rigor of a clinical trial, and we do not know if similar results would be seen universally, we believe the consistency of the results and the lack of outliers on the low side are justification for concern.  We believe that further investigation by researchers, GBCA manufacturers, and licensing agencies is warranted.

This study does not stand alone, but confirms the many recently published research papers that reported unexpected retention of gadolinium from contrast MRIs by people with normal renal function.  We encourage stronger action by the FDA and others to inform patients about possible gadolinium retention from contrast-enhanced MRIs and the potential for long-term side-effects.

We urge patients, clinicians, and researchers to read the entire report and share as appropriate with your families, care-givers, and colleagues.  Read the Report.

Hubbs Grimm and Sharon Williams

Gadolinium Bioeffects and Toxicity – Special Issue of MRI Journal

A special issue of the journal Magnetic Resonance Imaging has been published and it is dedicated to “Gadolinium Bioeffects and Toxicity”.  The issue starts with a safety overview of GBCAs by MRI Safety expert Dr. Emanuel Kanal, and ends with articles by UNC Radiologist Dr. Richard Semelka.  One of the articles provides the initial description of Gadolinium Deposition Disease (GDD) which, while recently named, has been around for a while.

The issue is broken down into 4 sections as shown below.  The link will take you to the abstract, but you can access a PDF of the complete paper.

Introduction –
Kanal, E. (2016). Gadolinium based contrast agents (GBCA): Safety overview after 3 decades of clinical experience. Magnetic Resonance Imaging.

MRI Findings –
Kanda, T., et al (2016). Gadolinium deposition in the brain. Magnetic Resonance Imaging, 34(10), 1346–1350.

Radbruch, A. (2016). Are some agents less likely to deposit gadolinium in the brain? Magnetic Resonance Imaging, 34(10), 1351–1354.

Ramalho, J., et al, (2016). Technical aspects of MRI signal change quantification after gadolinium-based contrast agents’ administration. Magnetic Resonance Imaging, 34(10), 1355–1358.

Basic Sciences –
Murata, N., et al, (2016). Gadolinium tissue deposition in brain and bone. Magnetic Resonance Imaging, 34(10), 1359–1365.

Prybylski, J. P., et al, 2016). Gadolinium deposition in the brain: Lessons learned from other metals known to cross the blood–brain barrier. Magnetic Resonance Imaging, 34(10), 1366–1372.

Swaminathan, S., et al, (2016). Gadolinium toxicity: Iron and ferroportin as central targets. Magnetic Resonance Imaging, 34(10), 1373–1376.

Tweedle, M. F., et al, (2016). Gadolinium deposition: Is it chelated or dissociated gadolinium? How can we tell? Magnetic Resonance Imaging, 34(10), 1377–1382.

Future Directions –
Semelka, R. C., et al, (2016). Gadolinium deposition disease: Initial description of a disease that has been around for a while. Magnetic Resonance Imaging, 34(10), 1383–1390.

Prybylski, J. P., et al, (2016). Can gadolinium be re-chelated in vivo? Considerations from decorporation therapy. Magnetic Resonance Imaging, 34(10), 1391–1393.

Ramalho, J., et al, (2016). Gadolinium toxicity and treatment. Magnetic Resonance Imaging, 34(10), 1394–1398.

Semelka, R. C., et al, (2016). Summary of special issue on gadolinium bioeffects and toxicity with a look to the future. Magnetic Resonance Imaging, 34(10), 1399–1401.

My thoughts –
I believe this Special Issue is an important step in moving the discussion about gadolinium retention in patients with normal renal function forward.  It seems that everyone now agrees that all patients exposed to gadolinium-based contrast agents retain some gadolinium from each dose of contrast that they receive. However, regardless of what you call it, patients are suffering from the toxic effects of retained gadolinium.

There is no doubt in my mind or the minds of other affected patients that retained gadolinium can cause chronic clinical symptoms of varying severity. Hopefully a large population of affected patients will be interviewed and examined soon.  I believe that discussing symptoms with patients might trigger a thought process that leads researchers to uncover the missing pieces of the puzzle that explain the difference between what has been seen in brain tissue that contains gadolinium and the symptoms that patients are experiencing.

Sharon Williams

2012 Letter to FDA about Gadolinium Toxicity is available to the public

On October 23, 2012, I sent a detailed letter to the FDA which expressed my concerns about gadolinium toxicity caused by retained gadolinium from Gadolinium-based Contrast Agents (GBCAs).  Because of the many recently published studies about gadolinium deposition in the brain and bones of patients with normal renal function, I decided that it was the right time to make my letter available to the public.  While some progress has been made, four years have passed since I wrote that letter and I am concerned that the full scope of the problem still might not be addressed.

While I believe that the FDA took my concerns about gadolinium retention seriously, things are moving much too slowly.  By making my letter public, I hope it will stimulate more interest in the issue of gadolinium retention and the plight of the many patients who have been adversely affected by its toxic effects.

You can download a copy of my 2012 Letter to the FDA in the Advocacy section.  Please share it with your doctors and other affected patients.

To the medical professionals that follow us, I hope you will take time to read my entire letter.  I am not a trained medical professional or scientist.  However, I believe you will find my comments well-reasoned and fact-based.

Sharon Williams

Study is first to report Gadolinium Toxicity in Patients with Normal Renal Function

Presumed Gadolinium Toxicity in Subjects with Normal Renal Function – A Report of 4 Cases”, is a landmark paper which documents the first presumed cases of gadolinium toxicity.  Richard C. Semelka, MD, Radiologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and his colleagues are the authors.  This is the first study to describe a series of patients with normal renal function who developed symptomatology lasting beyond the immediate post-injection period after the administration of a gadolinium-based contrast agent (GBCA).

Two subjects were assessed at 2 months and at 3 months after GBCA administration (early stage), and 2 subjects were assessed at 7 years and 8 years after GBCA administration (late stage).  Clinical features were similar between subjects, and included central torso pain (all), peripheral arm and leg pain (all), clouded mentation (2), and distal arm and leg skin thickening and rubbery subcutaneous tissue (one early and both late subjects).  All subjects had evidence of gadolinium retention ranging from one month up to 8 years after disease development.

Regarding clinical findings, the authors note that “these 4 individuals showed features that resemble and are observed in NSF patients”.  “Specifically, the glove-and-sock pattern of pain (seen in all patients) is essentially universally seen in NSF, and central torso pain (seen in 3 patients) is seen with some frequency, but not universally, in NSF patients.  Skin thickening and doughiness of the hands was seen in the 2 subjects with late-stage disease and is also described as a feature that progressively develops with NSF.”  They also noted that “headache and clouded mentation are vague and non-specific clinical symptoms; but they had new onset in 2 subjects”. While numerous recent studies report gadolinium deposition in the brain, no histopathological changes have been documented yet. They point out that a compound may be neurotoxic without being associated with histopathological signs.

These clinical features are comparable to the symptomatology reported by Burke et al, in which the most common self-reported symptoms included bone/joint pain and head/neck symptoms including headache, vision change, and hearing change (77.6% each). (more…)

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