Literally nobody told me the MRI gadolinium-based contrast I was about to have could screw up my health for years… or even permanently!

MRi and CT scanners use gadolinium based contrast agents to provide brighter images

Want to hear about a terrible mistake I made?

Wednesday 9th November 2016: That was the day my life changed. That was the day I had my first, and only gadolinium-enhanced MRI scan. I will never have another one. I’ve written about my experience here.

That was the day I realised that the conventional medical system is desperately flawed. And that, unless I research every single investigation and treatment offered to me, I won’t understand all the implications. In short, I discovered that informed consent is just an illusion.

Doctors seldom have the knowledge to advise patients about the true risks and benefits of the treatments, surgeries, and investigations they are offering. They don’t have the time to search the literature. Even if they did, seldom do they have the skills to critically appraise those studies.  Nor do they have access to unpublished data.

Oftentimes, most of the information on risks is hidden in unpublished studies. Doctors also usually can’t spot enormous gaps in research. This is critically important. As a result, industry-funded studies often market only the benefits, and omit any harms, of their product.

What I'm about to tell you might save your health, or your life

Let me tell you about gadolinium-based contrast agents, so that you don’t find yourself in a similar situation to me.

I now know many people who have had similar experiences as a result of having one or more gadolinium-enhanced MRI scans. In fact, despite being able to personally identify with all of the symptoms I describe below and more, I count myself luckier than most in the gadolinium toxicity groups. At least I’ve been improving. Many of them are suffering from heart-breaking gradual deterioration for months or years. Some of them are no longer with us.

What is gadolinium?

Gadolinium is a rare earth element. It’s a toxic heavy metal. In addition it’s also the most potent calcium channel blocker ever identified. It is known to be toxic to:

  • mitochondria,
  • cells,
  • tissues, particularly connective tissue,
  • liver,
  • kidneys,
  • and the nervous system.

In humans gadolinium accumulates in bone in particular. But it can also accumulate in:

  • skin,
  • brain,
  • kidneys,
  • liver,
  • joints
  • and other tissues and organs.

It causes oxidative damage, inflammation, and cell death. Studies indicate that it probably causes malignant transformation. 

How do you get exposed to gadolinium?

It’s rarely found in nature, so exposure should usually be minimal under normal circumstances.

However, gadolinium is used in the contrast agents injected into patients during MRI scans.

The contrast agents are drugs based on chelating agents, also not found in nature. A chelating agent is a drug which is capable of grabbing on to a metal and holding on to it.

Chelating agents can also come unattached from the metal they bind (in this case gadolinium) in several circumstances. Firstly, in the vial they are stored in. Secondly, in the human body. Finally, in the environment after they have been passed out in the urine.

Free chelating agents are also biologically active. In fact they’re not inert. Some of the chelating agents, like the one that’s used in the contrast agent, Prohance, have been shown to cause brain toxicity as well. This even occurs when not bound to gadolinium.

DTPA, the basic parent molecule used for all gadolinium contrast agents, has been shown to deplete essential nutrients, including zinc and calcium. Due to safety concerns, DTPA is not licensed for use during pregnancy. This is even when it’s not bound to the toxic element, gadolinium. 

What long term research has been done on people who have been injected with gadolinium based contrast agents?

Gadolinium based contrast agents are proven to cause an often fatal connective tissue disorder in the only group of people who have been studied long term: renal patients.

No other patient population has been studied extensively to determine the true long term effects of exposure to gadolinium. However patient support groups and cohort studies have identified constellations of symptoms that are commonly described by many patients following gadolinium exposure.

Here are just some of the chronic problems that people in gadolinium support groups complain of for months, and even years, after scans:

  • Pain,
  • brain fog,
  • joint and muscle problems,
  • metabolic syndrome,
  • high blood pressure,
  • fatigue,
  • gut symptoms,
  • skin disorders and
  • other inflammatory conditions

We know that gadolinium contrast agents are inflammatory, mitochondrial toxic, calcium channel blocking drugs. None of these symptoms should be a surprise. They’re just the commonest ways that inflammation, mitochondrial damage, and the blockade of calcium channel blockers manifest.

You can also throw severe connective tissue damage into the mix, since fibrosis is possibly the best described symptom of gadolinium contrast agents. After all, that’s what nephrogenic systemic fibrosis is named after.

And what is atherosclerosis, if not hardening of the blood vessels? A hardening that is associated with both inflammation and connective tissue disorders. While high blood pressure is associated with abnormally stiff blood vessels. In fact the blood vessels have lost their ability to respond properly to fluctuations in the blood supply to different tissues.

Acute and immediate complications of gadolinium based contrast agents are better described. Unfortunately, they include death, shock, and organ failure. 

What tends to happen when patients think that they are suffering from a chronic reaction to gadolinium?

Patients who present with symptoms are almost never investigated for gadolinium retention. In fact, gadolinium toxicity is seldom considered.

They are much more likely to receive further gadolinium enhanced scans to look for the cause of new symptoms and deterioration. And then to suffer from worsening symptoms as a result. They may also undergo other investigations. Not only that, but they might end up misdiagnosed with conditions like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS – you might know it by a different name. It is also called Lou Gehrig’s Disease and Motor Neurone Disease), and be treated with powerful medications.

Can gadolinium get into the environment?

As yet no-one has fully elucidated the environmental effects of gadolinium contrast agents on aquatic life. Or on fields irrigated with water containing increasing levels of gadolinium pollutants . However, preliminary studies are extremely worrying. 

Have you received a gadolinium contrast agent in an MRI?

Were you warned that there are no long term safety studies on how it will affect you?

Are you worried about the possibility of transferring it to your offspring? (the offspring of pregnant women injected with gadolinium are more likely to be stillborn. Inflammatory skin and joint conditions are more common in surviving children).

Do you worry about cumulative toxin exposure from our environment? Or about the effects on plants, animals and fungi of combined toxin exposure from multiple sources? These could include waste water from medical procedures?

Have you found yourself affected emotionally and psychologically by gadolinium? Know that you aren’t alone. And you’ll find this post really interesting. 

You can get in touch with me by clicking here, or find me in some of the gadolinium toxicity groups on facebook.

Comment below if you would like to share your own experiences and frustrations. Know that you are not alone. 

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