Gadolinium is a chemical element used as an ingredient in some contrast agents used in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) procedures. In people with poor kidney function, gadolinium-based contrast agents (GBCA) can cause a condition called Nephrogenic SystemicFibrosis (NSF) or Nephrogenic Fibrosing Dermopathy (NFD). NSF/NFD is a progressive condition which typically begins with tightening of the skin and can lead to complete immobility and death.

Gadolinium-Based Contrast Agents

GBCAs have only been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for MRI, but the agency acknowledges that they are also used in MRA. The five FDA-approved GBCAs are:

  • Magnevist
  • MultiHance
  • Omniscan
  • OptiMARK
  • ProHance

Symptoms of Gadolinium Injury

NSF typically begins with skin symptoms and sometimes plaques on the eyes. The skin tightens and hardens. As NSF progresses other tissues tighten and harden, including tissues around the joints, limiting mobility. NSF immobility can become so severe that the victim is bedridden and unable to move. Constriction can affect internal organs, to the point that the organs can no longer function, causing death.

Immediate medical attention can slow down or stop the progression of NSF, and some patient even experience improvement. Symptoms of NSF include:

  • Swelling and tightening of the skin
  • Red or dark patches on the skin
  • Burning or itching of the skin
  • Skin that feels woody
  • Skin that has the texture of orange peel
  • Symmetrical skin lesions, commonly on the ankles and thighs and between the wrists and upper arms
  • Sharp pains in the affected areas
  • Tightening or hardening of tissues around the joints
  • Swelling of the hands and feet with blister-like legions
  • Deep bone pain in the ribs and hips
  • Fluctuating hypertension
  • Raised, yellow spots on the whites of the eyes

How Gadolinium Causes Injury

Gadolinium is a highly toxic heavy metal. It is removed from the body by the kidneys. When used in MRI and MRA patients with healthy renal function, it is removed very quickly before it has the chance to cause harm. When kidney function is impaired gadolinium is not removed fast enough and can cause NSF.

Iodine-based contrast agents are dangerous for people with poor renal function because iodine can make kidney damage worse. GBCAs were originally believed to be a safer alternative for people with poor kidney function.

Many people with less-than-optimal kidney function are not aware that they have a problem.


There is no cure for NSF. There is no consistently effective treatment. Removing as much gadolinium from the body as quickly as possible can sometimes stop or slow the progression of NSF and some patients may even experience reversal of the condition.

To remove gadolinium renal function must be improved either by performing dialysis treatment or kidney transplant.

If you have developed NSF after MRI or MRA procedure, you may be entitled to compensation for you injuries. Please find a gadolinium injury attorney in your area right away to learn more about your rights.