News | Contrast Media | January 11, 2018

New study finds no evidence that gadolinium, an ingredient in contrast media, will harm the brain

Study Finds No Evidence that Gadolinium Causes Neurologic Harm

January 11, 2018 — There is no evidence that accumulation in the brain of the element gadolinium speeds cognitive decline, according to a new study presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), Nov. 26-Dec. 1 in Chicago.

Gadolinium-based contrast media were introduced in 1988 as a means of enhancing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and are commonly used today. The contrast agent is injected into the patient's bloodstream and eliminated from the body through the kidneys.

"It's estimated that approximately 400 million doses of gadolinium have been administered since 1988," said the study's lead author, Robert J. McDonald, M.D., Ph.D., neuroradiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. "Gadolinium contrast material is used in 40 to 50 percent of MRI scans performed today."

Scientists previously believed gadolinium contrast material could not cross the blood-brain barrier, the semipermeable membrane that selectively filters materials from the bloodstream from entering extracellular fluid in the brain and central nervous system. However, recent studies, including one from McDonald and colleagues, found that traces of gadolinium could be retained in the brain for years after MRI.

On Sept. 8, 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended adding a warning to labels about gadolinium retention in various organs, including the brain, for gadolinium-based contrast agents used during MRI. The FDA highlighted several specific patient populations at greater risk, including children and pregnant women.

Still, very little is known about the health effects, if any, of gadolinium that is retained in the brain.

For this study, McDonald and colleagues set out to identify the neurotoxic potential of intracranial gadolinium deposition following intravenous administration of gadolinium-based contrast agents during MRI.

The researchers used the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging (MCSA), the world's largest prospective population-based cohort on aging, to study the effects of gadolinium exposure on neurologic and neurocognitive function.

All MCSA participants underwent extensive neurologic evaluation and neuropsychological testing at baseline and 15-month follow-up intervals. Neurologic and neurocognitive scores were compared using standard methods between MCSA patients with no history of prior gadolinium exposure and those who underwent prior MRI with gadolinium-based contrast agents. Progression from normal cognitive status to mild cognitive impairment and dementia was assessed using multistate Markov model analysis.

The study included 4,261 cognitively normal men and women, between the ages of 50 and 90 with a mean age of 72. Mean length of study participation was 3.7 years. Of the 4,261 participants, 1,092 (25.6 percent) had received one or more doses of gadolinium-based contrast agents, with at least one participant receiving as many as 28 prior doses. Median time since first gadolinium exposure was 5.6 years.

After adjusting for age, sex, education level, baseline neurocognitive performance and other factors, gadolinium exposure was not a significant predictor of cognitive decline, dementia, diminished neuropsychological performance or diminished motor performance. No dose-related effects were observed among these metrics. Gadolinium exposure was not an independent risk factor in the rate of cognitive decline from normal cognitive status to dementia in this study group.

"Right now there is concern over the safety of gadolinium-based contrast agents, particularly relating to gadolinium retention in the brain and other tissues," McDonald said. "This study provides useful data that at the reasonable doses 95 percent of the population is likely to receive in their lifetime, there is no evidence at this point that gadolinium retention in the brain is associated with adverse clinical outcomes."

Co-authors are Jennifer S. McDonald, Ph.D., Terry Therneau, Ph.D., Laurence J. Eckel, M.D., David F. Kallmes, M.D., Rickey Carter, Ph.D., Clifford R. Jack Jr., M.D., and Ronald C. Petersen, M.D., Ph.D.

This paper is the winner of the Kuo York Chynn Neuroradiology Research Award.

For more information: www.rsna.org

Related Content

Key RSNA 2017 Study Presentations, Trends and Video

VIDEO: Big Concerns Remain for MRI Gadolinium Contrast Safety at RSNA 2017

VIDEO: How Serious is MRI Gadolinium Retention in the Brain and Body?

FDA Committee Votes to Expand Warning Labels on Gadolinium-Based Contrast Agents


Related Content

News | Radiology Business

February 2, 2023 — Five additional imaging centers across Allegheny Health Network (AHN) have been recognized by the ...

Time February 02, 2023
arrow
News | Radiation Oncology

February 2, 2023 — The V Foundation, a top cancer research charity, has announced the establishment of a new grant ...

Time February 02, 2023
arrow
News | Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

February 1, 2023 — According to an accepted manuscript published in ARRS’ American Journal of Roentgenology (AJR), MRI ...

Time February 01, 2023
arrow
News | MRI Breast

February 1, 2023 — Compared to other common supplemental screening methods, breast MRI was superior at detecting breast ...

Time February 01, 2023
arrow
News | Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

January 25, 2023 — On November 11th, 2022 at the Southern Hills Hospital in Las Vegas, USA, Robotic Spine Surgeon Dr ...

Time January 25, 2023
arrow
News | Breast Imaging

January 24, 2023 — For patients with cancer, lengthy delays in treatment can decrease their chances of survival. In an ...

Time January 24, 2023
arrow
News | Artificial Intelligence

January 20, 2023 — Artificial intelligence (AI) can reconstruct coarsely-sampled, rapid magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) ...

Time January 20, 2023
arrow
News | Digital Pathology

January 19, 2023 — In an effort to speed up the research study process, Deciphex has announced the rollout of its ...

Time January 19, 2023
arrow
Feature | Contrast Media Injectors | By Christine Book

The vital, and growing role of contrast media, and the medical devices employed to inject the agent into the body ...

Time January 19, 2023
arrow
News | Radiology Business

January 18, 2023 — Addressing the growing demand for medical imaging and a shortage of radiologists, Bayer announced the ...

Time January 18, 2023
arrow
Subscribe Now