Almost 2 years ago, in the beginning of September of 2020, I noticed a bump on my right eyelid. When I touched it, I could feel that there was some kind of cyst under the eyelid which could be moved. I went to see multiple ophthalmologists, and one of them asked me to take an MRI with contrast. When I had a hysterosalpingogram (HSG), a procedure to look inside the uterus and fallopian tubes, I was in severe pain. HSG uses a contrast agent which is a fluid that contains dye. That fluid is placed in the uterus and fallopian tubes and shows up in the Xray screen. Even though HSG is a completely different procedure from an MRI with contrast, I wasn’t comfortable agreeing to the procedure. So, I did just plain MRI. The doctor was not happy about what I chose, but I am glad I did, because I could have ended up having gadolinium deposition disease (GDD).
Patients who receive IV contrast prior to undergoing an MRI, receive a contrast agent containing Gadolinium. Gadolinium-based contrast agents (GBCAs) are used to improve the detail of some types of tissues visible with an MRI, thereby improving diagnostic accuracy. However, Gadolinium is highly toxic to humans because it is a heavy metal. You know how heavy metal affects our bodies. Heavy metal toxicity can lower energy levels and damage the functioning of the brain, lungs, kidney, liver, blood composition and other important organs. Long-term exposure can lead to gradually progressing physical, muscular, and neurological degenerative processes that imitate diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and muscular dystrophy.
Supposedly, gadolinium in GBCAs is safe for use in the body because it goes through a process called chelation. In chelation, other chemical ions mixed with gadolinium will surround the toxic metal and prevent it from harming the body while also preserving its ability to enhance contrast in tissues. Then, healthy kidneys expel the chelated gadolinium out of the body through urine before it can cause toxic reactions.
That being said, there are a number of people who suffer from the toxic chemical after an MRI scan. When you search for “gadolinium deposition disease”, you will find many law firm sites which represent the victims of contrast MRI.
The MRI with contrast technique was introduced in 1980s. But in 1997, among a group of 15 renal dialysis patients in California, the first GDD case was found. Those patients showed the symptoms of a scleromyxoedema-like dermopathy that was characterized by thickening and hardening of the skin of the extremities. Because the disease was thought to be a new fibrosing skin disorder that affected patients with severely impaired renal (kidney) function, it was named Nephrogenic Fibrosing Dermopathy (NFD), which later changed to Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis (NSF). However, no one knew how this happened at that time.
More people have suffered over time, and the disease was also seen in patients who have normal kidney. So, finally in 2016, researchers proposed gadolinium deposits in the body should be viewed as a new disease category, “gadolinium deposition disease.” GBCAs can cause a very serious condition in people with normal kidney function. Gadolinium deposition disease occurs when gadolinium breaks free of its chelator and is deposited in the body instead of being cleared by the kidneys.
Some of you may know the story of Gena Norris (Actor, Chuck Norris’s wife) who suffered from severe GDD after having multiple contrast MRIs to evaluate her rheumatoid arthritis. You can watch the story below.
As Gena says, not many GDD patients have money to spend to treat the disease. Many of them ended up anguishing from pain and disability, or it could be fatal.
You can find the list of symptoms of GDD is here, here, and here. But importantly, the symptoms might show up months or years later after your MRI scan. Technically, the risks of gadolinium should be informed to patients before the procedure is confirmed, but this disclosure is limited to outpatients.
Depending on what needs to be diagnosed, MRI contrast may not be avoidable. However, I highly recommend that you should research what kind of other less harmful diagnostic procedures may be available. For my mysterious eye issue, after seeing multiple doctors in NY without finding an answer, I decided to see a doctor in Japan. After seeing a well-known eye doctor in Tokyo, he identified that it is lacrimal gland dislocation by just looking. I know it is time consuming and costly to find the right doctor, but it might be worth your life.