The Grapevine

Radiologists Are Not Telling Patients About MRI Heavy Metal Risk

Doctors use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to get a more detailed picture of a patient’s organs and tissues. The imaging technique helps determine organ problems, tumors, cysts and other abnormalities in the body. 

Despite being useful in identifying conditions, people are starting to avoid MRIs. There have been reports of side effects that led to serious complications in patients

The bad effects of MRI have been linked to the use of a contrast agent called gadolinium. Doctors inject the agent into the patient to improve the clarity of the images from the machine.

However, gadolinium is a highly toxic heavy metal. One study found that 25 percent of the agent remain in the body for a long period of time after the imaging process. 

In 2015, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued guidelines on the use of gadolinium-based contrast agents (GBCAs) for MRIs to reduce the risk of side effects. The agency updated the document two years later, requiring a new warning and safety measures to be implemented.

“After additional review and consultation with the Medical Imaging Drugs Advisory Committee, we are requiring several actions to alert health care professionals and patients about gadolinium retention after an MRI using a GBCA, and actions that can help minimize problems,” the FDA said. 

The updated guidelines include providing a patient Medication Guide before taking an MRI and that healthcare professionals identify the risks for patients before providing GBCA. 

However, some professionals have been found not following the FDA guidelines. A recent study showed that a majority of radiologists avoid informing patients about the presence of toxic contrast agents in their body. 

Researchers said radiologists are taking advantage of the policy that allows them to decide whether to give patients safety information or not without consultation. Patients should specifically ask for it prior to the procedure. 

A report by Health Imaging suggested that experts remove gadolinium deposits in their radiology report to avoid provoking "unnecessary patient anxiety." However, this also prevents patients from taking action when affected by gadolinium toxicity.

One well-known case of gadolinium exposure was Chuck Norris' wife Gena. She reportedly developed a "gadolinium deposition disease" after undergoing three contrast-enhanced MRIs to check her rheumatoid arthritis, according to Mercola.

The couple filed a lawsuit in 2017 against manufacturers and distributors of GBCAs. They said the side of gadolinium were known but patients are not warned.

Gena linked gadolinium to acid burning on her skin, mental confusion, muscle spasms, kidney damage and muscle wasting. In other cases, MRIs side effects include severe kidney disease and hypersensitivity in the brain.

Researchers are now calling the medical community to consider GBCA deposits in the body as a new disease category.

MRI Clinic The new magnetic resonance machine at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Spokane, Wash., is ready for business. Staff Sgt. JT May III/U.S. Air Force

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