Gadolinium that is administered before an MRI scan can cause headache, nausea and skin problems like hives. To know more about this contrast medium, read on…
Gadolinium, a contrast agent that is injected prior to an MRI scan to get a clear picture of the organ under consideration, can cause few side effects, some of them as serious as nephrogenic systemic fibrosis. It is discussed below:
Some of the bothersome but not worrisome gadolinium dye side effects are nausea, headache, lightheadedness, and low blood pressure. These are minor issues that do not last long and usually go away after the scanning procedure is over. Some of the serious side effects of this contrast dye are discussed below:
Administration of gadolinium injections before or during an MRI scan can cause skin problems. This is an indication of an allergic reaction to this contrast medium. The skin rash can appear anywhere and not necessarily around the injected site. There have been reports of red rash appearing on the thighs hours after administering the contrast dye. In some cases, the itchy rash has not remained confined but progressed to other parts of the body. Skin disorders due to gadolinium injections can also appear in the form of hives. Trouble breathing and facial swelling are symptoms of a severe allergic reaction and require urgent medical treatment.
Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis (NSF)
This is one of the serious side effects of using this contrast medium and people with pre-existing kidney problems are more susceptible to this fatal condition. Patients with a history of kidney disorders take more time to get rid of injected gadolinium from the body. That is why, they have a higher risk of falling prey to NSF than those with healthy kidney function. Thus, people suffering from poor kidney function are advised to avoid injecting this contrast dye before an MRI.
NSF typically causes abnormal growth of fibrous connective tissues within an organ. Usually NSF affects the skin and the joints. As a result, the skin is no longer elastic. The non elasticity of the skin is distinctly visible as it turns firm and hard. The affected area of the skin also loses its natural color (brawny hyper pigmentation) and becomes thick. Dark or red patches may appear on the skin. Apart from skin problems, the joints located in the legs, arms, hands and feet become less flexible, thereby making day-to-day activities like walking extremely difficult.
As NSF is a progressive disease, it may eventually interfere with the normal functioning of the heart and the lungs. NSF symptoms usually appear 2-12 weeks after administration of gadolinium. In general, symptoms of NSF that can occur are given below:
- Swollen and stiff joints
- Muscle weakness
- Yellow spots distinctly visible on the white part of the eye
- Sharp pain in the ribs and hips
- Large areas of hardened skin
- Itchy, burning sensation on the skin
- Elevated blood pressure
Some of the MRI contrast agents containing chelates of gadolinium, that have been responsible for causing NSF symptoms, are Optimark, Omniscan, and Magnevist. Other gadolinium-based contrast agents have not been yet associated with NSF cases.
Considering the dangers of administering gadolinium, one should go for an MRI scan with contrast only if it is necessary. Also, patients are advised to undergo a set of kidney function tests before undergoing a session of MRI scan with this contrast. The tests will give a clear idea about how correctly the kidneys are functioning. The results of kidney function tests will allow the doctor to decide whether the patient is fit to undergo an MRI scan with contrast.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.