Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans are a common procedure used to create detailed images of the tissues and organs of the body. Thus, the scans are extremely helpful in determining injuries and diseases. Although considered an everyday procedure, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning related to a dye commonly used within standard MRIs.
New Risks Associated with MRIs
During an MRI scan, contrast agents, or dyes, are injected into the body to enhance image quality. Gadolinium, one of the most common contrast agents used in conjunction with MRIs, has been known to cause complications and brain effects in certain patients, according to the FDA.
On its own, gadolinium is not particularly dangerous, but trace amounts of the substance can linger in the body for months or even years after receiving an injection. For patients that may require repeat MRIs, the substance may be harmful, as it can be retained in the skin, bones, and even the brain.
Although a recent study conducted by researchers at the Mayo Clinic has determined that gadolinium retention in the brain does not result in faster mental decline, the possibility that exposure to the metal could be related to neurological issues, including movement problems, still exists.
Who is at Risk?
Currently, gadolinium retention is not considered to be a hazard, as contrast agents that contain the metal are cleared through the body by the kidneys. However, patients with pre-existing kidney failure may experience adverse health effects when exposed to gadolinium.
While the risk is quite small, patients with kidney problems may develop a rare condition known as nephrogenic systemic fibrosis, which results in a painful thickening of the skin.
Are MRIs Safe?
While gadolinium exposure and retention may occur after an MRI, the FDA has determined that the benefits of gadolinium-based contrast agents typically outweigh the risk of adverse side effects.
In the meantime, health care professionals will be required to inform patients of the potential risks associated with MRIs and provide informational pamphlets before a gadolinium contrast agent is used.
As with any diagnostic procedure, it is important to discuss any and all concerns with a healthcare professional. Furthermore, repeat imaging studies using MRI technology should be minimized when possible to avoid potential complications.
While the risks associated with MRIs are extremely low, complications may occur in patients with certain disorders. If you or someone you know has experienced an injury or adverse health effect after receiving a gadolinium-based contrast agent, you may have a valid legal claim. Medical malpractice takes many forms and may occur due to negligence or medication errors. If you believe that you are the victim of medical malpractice, you may be entitled to compensation for damages and suffering.
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