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Is the MRI Contrasting Agent Gadolinium Safe? (Part 2)

Is the MRI Contrasting Agent Gadolinium Safe? (Part 2)

Faith of the Mustard Seed

Part two in a series. Read part one here.

In the last column, I discussed gadolinium’s role in contrasted MRI procedures and a December 2017 warning by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that the body can retain gadolinium in its tissues and brain for years. I also shared my personal experience with gadolinium. In this column, I will further discuss gadolinium, mention two diseases linked to its use, and highlight a high-profile lawsuit against gadolinium manufacturers.

Gadolinium is a regularly used contrasting agent (or “dye”) injected during contrasted MRI procedures. Its purpose is to highlight and to clarify the MRI images for radiologists. Gadolinium is helpful, but an article published by the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) titled, “Chuck Norris, FDA And Gadolinium – Untangling The Lawsuit,” by Chuck Dinerstein, states:

“Gadolinium is toxic. To reduce the toxicity, gadolinium has been coated, actually linked, to another chemical to protect the body from its effects. These linking compounds (technically chelators) come in two forms, one is linear and the other more spherical. The latter covers the gadolinium more effectively than the older linear version. These compounds are referred to as Gadolinium-Based Contrast Agents (GBCAs).”

The article adds that GBCAs passed pre-market testing and have been used in MRIs for 18 years. No apparent health issues were reported during that time, but that changed in 2006 when a new condition was linked to GBCAs called nephrogenic systemic fibrosis (NSF). NSF was discovered in some patients with renal insufficiency (any degree of kidney failure) who were injected with a GBCA, which led to worsened kidney functions.

ACSH also reported that it took time to find the connection between gadolinium and NSF because of the low frequency of the problem (and it did not occur in all patients with kidney function impairment). But the article noted that when the connection was found, the FDA acted quickly and issued a warning on GBCAs.

Another disorder linked to the use of the MRI contrast is gadolinium deposition disease. This disease has been brought to wider public attention by a lawsuit filed by Chuck and Gena Norris. According to an article in The Washington Post by reporter Lindsay Bever titled, “Chuck Norris claims his wife was poisoned during MRI scans, sues for $10 million,” actor and martial artist Chuck Norris and his wife Gena filed a lawsuit against 11 medical companies, including manufacturers of gadolinium, on Nov. 1, 2017.  The lawsuit claims that Gena has gadolinium deposition disease, wracking her body with waves of extreme pain and burning, trouble breathing, violent shaking, cognitive damage, and kidney issues.

The article quotes Norris attorney Todd Walburg as saying that this is “one of many cases” against gadolinium manufacturers.

I do not feel comfortable with the controversy surrounding gadolinium. I am going to pass on having contrasted MRIs unless it is totally necessary. What about you?


Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

Debi is a retired admissions and marketing director residing in Oregon. She is a mother of three grown children and has three grandchildren. She was diagnosed with PPMS in 2010. With her column, “Faith of the Mustard Seed,” she hopes to help and inspire others who are also dealing with MS.
Debi is a retired admissions and marketing director residing in Oregon. She is a mother of three grown children and has three grandchildren. She was diagnosed with PPMS in 2010. With her column, “Faith of the Mustard Seed,” she hopes to help and inspire others who are also dealing with MS.
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  1. Kristin Johnson says:

    At my last appointment, I asked my neurologist about this, and since I’ve been stable for 6 years with no changes, I will no longer have yearly MRI’s. If she feels there is new activity, I will have a recheck. Gladolinium? I doubt it.

    • Debi Wilson says:

      Thank-you for your comments, Kristin! I am glad you discussed this with your neurologist and that you are happy with the outcome!:) Debi

  2. Dt says:

    When I inquired about not having gadolinium used my doctor said it was a convenience. Going forward my suggestion is having a non contrast done and if there are any changes to lesion load then consider having gadolinium to see if it’s active.

    • Debi Wilson says:

      Thanks Dt for your comments! Great advice, and discussing your treatment with your doctor first is always recommended since each case is different. Debi

  3. Donna B says:

    Hi Deb..thanks for your article. I have had Gado contrast numerous times since a pituitary tumor was found and removed at age 52. I have had MRI every 2 yrs with Gado since then. I Am 64 now and due for another MRI. I Am going to refuse Gado and I am sure my neurosurgeon will not be happy. I am the one who will live with any consequences or I’ll effects of the Gado

    • Debi Wilson says:

      Thanks for sharing Donna!
      I feel the same, but if my doctor determines gadolinium necessary I would follow her advice. Every situation is different, but, having knowledge and a choice is huge!
      Take care, Debi

  4. Stephanie Redden says:

    I know I will have a MRI next year that will require contrast. I have a small tumor wrapped around my ear drum and it needs to be highlighted. I don’t really mind getting the contrast. Thank-you for writing about this!

    • Debi Wilson says:

      Thank-you Stephanie for sharing! Yes I agree, in your situation it definitely sounds necessary!
      All the best to you, Debi

  5. RW says:

    Hi Debi,

    You are aware from my previous post on your last article on Gadolinium that I am one of many trying to warn other MS patients about the effects of Gadolinium Toxicity. I appreciate you bringing it to the forefront again and pray you never stop educating your readers about the GBCA’s and the harm they have already caused hundreds of thousands of unsuspecting patients with all kinds of diseases and disorders. Please have your readers go


    to find out the latest information and what they can do to help themselves and others from this toxic poison.

    • Debi Wilson says:

      Hi Rose,
      Knowledge is a good thing, and having this information helps people to make their own educated choices on using gadolinium. Thanks for your comments and for helping to bring this issue to the forefront. Debi

  6. Jeff says:

    Thank you for the information. I’ve been doing simi-yearly MRI’s since 1999 and have always been just a bit concerned about the Gad. I’ve gotten pretty good at reading MRI’s and the contrast does make it much easier to follow the progression; I’m sure my Neuro agrees.

    Whether it’s good or not kinda follows all the other drugs we blithely take, hoping one will be ‘the magic bullet’. I was involved in a PML study with the second release of Tysabri, and knowing that issue I consented with the knowledge that the Tysabri, even with its possible side effects, was worth the risk. I’m now taking Ocrevus with the same precaution; we don’t know, there are no long term studies available as it’s so new.

    With MS and all the other autoimmune diseases there is and will continue to be a risk factor in all new and existing treatments and diagnostic tools. There will be successes and unfortunately too many failures; science is not perfect. The only way we can be absolutely without risk is to postpone using any of them until after they have been proven completely safe. Unfortunately, by then I will have long passed from this earth.

    If it gets me through the day better, delays, or even improves the progression, then we are and will be, caught between the risk and the reward.

    With a deep breath, I state unequivocally: I’m for the risk. Life is like that.

    • Debi Wilson says:

      True Jeff, life is like that. My hope is that they find a safer alternative to replace the gadolinium. But, like you said until then, you must do what you and your Dr. feel is the best treatment for you. Thank-you for your comments. All the best to you, Debi

  7. Crystal Anderson says:

    I don’t have MS. I had four MRIs and they gave me trigeminal neuralgia, idiopathic mast cell activation, fibromyalgia and MGUS, Sjoegrens like symptoms. I know people have been given Scleroderma and hashimotos.
    Spread the word. It is a carcinogen.

    • Robert Smith says:

      Can you please elaborate? What contrast was used? How long ago? Did you have a 24 hour urine test confirm Gd? What health concerns prompted the four MRIs? I’d like to know.

  8. Cj says:

    As a radiology professional, please understand what the intravenous contrast does. It allows for better viewing of anything vascular. This includes tumors and lesions. MS patients benefit greatly from 3T MRI scans. If you are going to go without contrast on a brain MRI with MS, please ask for a 3T magnet. Also you will achieve greater detail if you are as still as possible. Patient movement can destroy the quality of an MRI scan.

    • Sam says:

      Hia CJ I am in the U.K. & was sent by my hospital in Nottingham for a MRI scan after having had cancer inside my nose. Later that Sunday afternoon I started to get some quite bad pain inside my left eye & over the left eye. I went to the bathroom in the evening where I could not believe what I was seeing against the white tiles, again the left eye showed a rough oval around a pea size to the left of the pupil, 5/6 perfectly small dots with white centres in the bottom of my eye & the worst behind a straggly line right through the centre of my pupil causing some bad blurred ness either side of the line. There is a greenish half moon shape also when I look down that is there.
      I contacted on Monday my Ophthalmology (glasses opticians) who confirmed after a series of tests that two weeks before these lines where not there when I had my new eye test. I contacted the hospital with a view to they might ask me to go in for some checks but I feel they have fobbed me off saying they have done nothing wrong & they don’t want to get involved. I know for a fact they havnt gone out to purposely damage my left eye but the eye is now quite badly damaged after my visit to their department. I have waited hopefully for these lines to subside but that hasn’t been the case. I find myself in a position not wanting to claim against someone that was trying to help me, but what I would like is how this has happened and how I can get it fixed if possible?
      Have you any ideas CJ & Thankyou for any help you can give.

  9. Elizabeth Henehan says:

    I questioned the tech when I went for an MRI last month and he said that it’s not conclusive that it’s harmful. It’s important to drink water to flush it out.

  10. Ewa Orbeck says:

    why are the MRIs necessary after diagnosis of MS? Active CNS lesions do not predict or show anything of value to the patient. The change of medication can be based on tolerance of the drug and frequency of MS attacks.

    • Debi Wilson says:

      Yes good point Ewa. My doctor said since I am not on a drug treatment for my PPMS, there is no point in me having an MRI. So I took that to mean that they are just looking to see if a treatment is working. But you are right, I would think that they could tell other ways. Thanks for your comments! Debi

  11. mike says:

    Hello Debi…My thought is… could the stronger 3T magnet be making this worse? Also could any subsequent MRI even without contrast be causing damage because of the existing gadolinium still in the tissues? I always thought it was weird that they go to such lengths to keep metal out of mri rooms and yet they are injecting it into bodies that go inside that tube. Fortunately I only have “possible ms” but unfortunately that has led me to get many of these contrast mri’s. Now I have all the symptoms of gadolinium deposition disease. Which lead to more MRI’s being prescribed over the years. People do your research before proceeding with any medical prescription or procedure.The risks of these things are downplayed by many doctors. Now how do I get this crap out of my body!!

    • Debi Wilson says:

      Hi Mike,
      I just saw you post, i’m sorry if it’s been awhile. What you are saying about the strength of the MRI could very well be true, I don’t know. I am sorry you Have been now diagnosed with the Gadolinium disease. I wish you the best, Debi

  12. Timothy J Lewis says:

    I sought care at the VA in 2012 when the left half of my body went numb from my neck to the tips of my toes. I had no pain whatsoever. After 2 or 3 months I was finally given an MRI w/ contrast & was directed to the nearest VA emergency room for surgery to remove a tumor in my neck.

    I was admitted for 5 days and had a complete work up. After having every test at their disposal done to me they determined I have RRMS. It wasn’t a tumor in my neck it was a MS lesion and I have more in my brain and spine. It wasn’t long after that first MRI that I started having pretty serious pain in my left forearm. Burning, tingling, at times intense pain. It has never stopped. I’m on max dosage of gabapentin and was also on Lyrica (I think). On good days the pain is a 3 or 4. In the last couple of years I have started having similar but less extreme feelings first in the left foot and then both feet.

    Since my diagnosis I have had at least 8 MRIs with contrast.

    I have asked my Primary care doctor, my MS Neurologist, and the PA who did my annual physical just last week about possible gadolinium over exposure from the MRI contrast and they all appeared clueless and claimed to never have heard about any official warnings or lawsuits or even concerns about the contrast.

    I asked all three about getting tested and all three said they had no idea what test to even ask for. I made clear I didn’t find fault with them or the VA or that I felt they were in any way liable that I just wanted to be tested because I went from numbness to pain with nobody ever saying yeah that’s your MS and that if it was the contrast then would be important to know. All this time I always ive been told that they had no idea why I have nerve pain in my arm. But I swear when I discussed this with my neurologist that I could see the light bulb go off over his head. He seemed to immediately understand the connection I was making but still claimed verbal ignorance to anything else regarding the subject.

    Since no one at the VA knows or at least claims to not know what testing I need is there anyone here who can give me the medical terminology I need to use when asking again for these tests. All I have found is that there is a 24 hour urine test and a blood test but not what the specific test names are.

    I’ve been battling this disease and the VA for years completely alone and I’m just hitting a complete brick wall on this one.

    If anyone can help me out so I can tell them specifically the tests that I need done I would be forever grateful.

    Regards, TJL

    • Debi Wilson says:

      Hi Timothy,
      I went to a naturopath, and she ran a test to check for heavy metals in my system. I don’t remember the name of the specific test. But, it didninvolve sending a stool sample away for the results. She did a urine and blood test at her office. I hope this helps you.

  13. Don says:

    My neurologist usually doesnt ask for the Gd, unless there is something he is specifically trying to figure out. Once I had given the request to the MRI center, and even though he wrote no GD, they did it anyways. I dont know if they decided to override because they saw something, but nothing new showed up. In the future, I am going to confirm with the MRI center also that there is no Gd.

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