The Gadolinium Controversy--An Update.
Gadolinium-based contrast agents (GBCA) are intravenously administered drugs used in diagnostic imaging procedures to enhance the quality of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and are commonly used for enhancement of vessels as in MR angiography (MRA) or for solid tumor enhancement, including brain tumors associated with the degradation of the blood-brain barrier.
Gadolinium (Gd)-based contrast agents have not proved safer than the iodinated hydrophilic radiocontrast agents used in X-ray radiography or computed tomography; and because these gadolinium contrast agents pass the blood-brain barrier, increased awareness has focused on their toxicity. According to the FDA, patients who have received four or more MRIs involving Gd-based contrast agents showed traces of Gd in brain tissue. Consequently, the FDA revised its class warnings for all gadolinium-based contrast media and advised that the use of gadolinium-contrast agents must be based on careful consideration. As of now, extra care must be taken with patients requiring multiple doses, including pregnant and pediatric patients, and those with inflammatory conditions.
The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) updated its Medication Guide, May 16, 2018, stating that all MRI centers should provide a Medication Guide the first time an outpatient receives a GBCA injection or when the information is substantially changed. However, hospital inpatients are not required to receive a Medication Guide unless the patient or caregiver requests it. A health care professional who determines that it is not in a patient's best interest to receive a Medication Guide because of significant concerns about its effects may direct that it not be provided to that patient; however, the Medication Guide should be provided to any patient who requests the information. FDA also states:
Health care professionals should consider the retention characteristics of each agent when choosing a GBCA for patients who may be at higher risk for gadolinium retention. These patients include those requiring multiple lifetime doses, pregnant women, children, and patients with inflammatory conditions. Minimize repeated GBCA imaging studies when possible, particularly closely spaced MRI studies. However, do not avoid or defer necessary GBCA MRI scans.
Chemical Structure and Use of Gd-Contrast Agents
According to their chemical structure, Gd-based contrast agents are subdivided into ionic and nonionic, macrocyclic and linear contrast agents (see Table 1). The cyclic structure creates a stronger bond to gadolinium. Macrocyclic agents have a cage-like structure that is less likely to release the Gd(III) ion. In contrast, linear agents have an elongated molecular structure, making them more likely to release gadolinium. Linear contrast agents are so-called Gd chelates with open, mobile chains that have no strong binding to the toxic Gd3+ ion. (Hemsen 2012, Marckmann 2006).
Risks and Side Effects
According to information from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (January 2018), the long-term risks of gadolinium contrast agent administration are still unknown. In the EU, the intravenous use of specific linear gadolinium-containing contrast agents has been suspended (see Table 2). The linear agents in question are gadobenic acid, gadodiamide, gadopentetic acid and gadoversetamide. In lieu of the information available, it would seem reasonable to delay the use of any linear GBCA. However, after gadolinium producers and imaging societies raised objections, the EMA will reexamine its decision regarding these agents.
"While there is clear evidence that all types of [gadolinium contrast agents], both linear and macrocyclic, may result in trace amounts of gadolinium in the brain, there exists no clinical evidence that this leads to an increase in risk or harm to patients," a press release from GE Healthcare defended the company's MRI contrast agent Omniscan; and continued stating that "Omniscan has a specific cardiac indication in several European Member States; removing it would limit clinical choice."
In patients with impaired renal function (i.e. an impaired elimination of the drug), gadolinium-based contrast agents (GBCAs) may increase the risk for nephrogenic systemic fibrosis (NSF), a rare and serious syndrome involving fibrosis of skin, joints, eyes and internal organs. In these patients, the use of GBCAs must be avoided unless the diagnostic information is essential and not available with non-contrasted MRI or other modalities. The risk for NSF appears highest among patients with chronic, severe kidney disease (GFR <30 mL/min/1.73m2) or acute kidney injury. Before GBCAs are administered to patients with chronically reduced renal function, including diabetics, hypertensive and older patients (>60 years), the estimation of the glomerular filtration rate (GFR) is essential.
GBCAs were first considered as a cause of NSF as early as 2006 (Agarwal 2009, Grobner 2006). Reports indicated that NSF developed within days or months after administration in patients with renal insufficiency (Dawson 2008).
Prof. Detlef Moka, MD, and Chief Executive Officer of BDN stated in interview: "If gadolinium stays in the body longer in patient with renal insufficiency, Gd can accumulate in the skin and organs and cause the severe connective tissue disease NSF."
Gadolinium(III) ions occurring in water-soluble salts are toxic to mammals. Chelated gadolinium(III) compounds (i.e. gadolinium bound to a chelate) are far less toxic because the chelate carries the tightly bound gadolinium ions through the kidneys and out of the body before free ions can be released. Because of its paramagnetic properties, solutions of chelated gadolinium complexes are used intravenously in magnetic resonance imaging.
Theory and Practice
With healthy kidney function, Gd contrast agents should be excreted within a short time. Gadodiamite, for example, is a linear and thus less stable Gd chelate. One milliliter of gadodiamide contains 287 mg (0.5 mmol) of the Gd drug. The pharmaceutical manufacturer GE Healthcare states, "the recommended dose is usually 0.1 mmol / kg BW (equivalent to 0.2 ml / kg BW) up to a body weight (BW) of 100 kg. If the body weight is more than 100 kg, then 20 ml is usually sufficient to obtain a desired contrast for diagnosis."
Consider the theoretical reduction of contrast agent after administration of 20 ml gadodiamide as shown in Table 3. About 32.5 hours after the intravenous injection of 20 ml Omniscan, only 0.2 [micro]g gadodiamide should remain in the system. After three days, no gadolinium should be detected in urine.
Data from 550 randomized urinary specimens before chelation showed a mean Gd concentration of 5.76 [micro]g/l with a standard deviation of 128 [micro]g/l. The maximum value was 2990 [micro]g/l (Source: Micro Trace Minerals Laboratory (MTM 2006). The detection limit for gadolinium in urine is currently 0.05 [micro]g/l.
Further surveillance carried out in 2011, 2017, and 2018, showed a similar Gd mean concentration, and again a high standard deviation. In 2018, another statistical evaluation of more than 12,000 baseline urine measurements showed a mean gadolinium concentration below the detection limit with a high standard deviation of 2605 [micro]g/l, indicating the presence of some urine samples with very high gadolinium concentrations. Of the 12,000 baseline urines tested, 80 urine samples showed a Gd concentration of more than 100 [micro]gGd/l. In 11 of these samples, Gd values greater than 1000 [micro]g/l were detected.
The highest gadolinium concentration was 290,000 [micro]g/l (two-hundred and ninety-thousand). The urine creatinine value of this sample was inconspicuous, reflecting normal renal function. The second-highest Gd urine concentration was 57,000 [micro]g/l with a urine creatinine value of 2.56 g/l, indicating renal stress. In both cases, available patient information did not provide information regarding the time the contrast agent was administered, nor did we receive the contrast agent's product name.
It is of specific interest that none of the extreme values outlined above came from a urine sample following chelation. This demonstrates that the renal clearance of the above-mentioned urine tests is due to the body's own excretion mechanism. It shows that gadolinium is continuously eliminated over a given time without the use of chelating agents.
Chelation therapists debate if chelating agents such as DMPS, DTPA, EDTA, or DMSA are useful in de-chelating GBCAs. Our evaluation of data suggests otherwise. The problem we noticed is that provocation urine test results were not compared with urine test results of unprovoked (baseline) urines, leading to misinterpretation.
The contrast agent's molecular structure determines its stability and if it can be re-chelated by a given chelating agent. The molecular formula of GdDTPA and ZnDTPA are similar, as is the Log K (thermodynamic stability constant). For ZnDTPA the stability constant is 18.40 and for GdDTPA it is 18.25 (at pH 7.4), which indicates that binding ability and stability constant of DTPA with Zn and Gd are similar. Whether ZnDTPA is a suitable chelating agent for GBCAs is to be determined.
We compared the gadolinium concentration of urine samples before and after chelation. Selected pairs came from the same patient and had been taken at the same day. Samples were submitted by various clinics and the results, as shown in Table 4, seem to indicate that chelation is not as successful as proclaimed.
Most importantly, if the gadolinium excretion value before and after provocation are not compared, post chelation results are most likely misinterpreted.
We evaluated data received from chelation with Dimaval (DMPS, Sodium 2,3-dimercaptopropane-l-sulfonate), the chelator of choice for many European physicians. Dimaval is produced by Heyl, Berlin, and in talking with the responsible scientist Dr. J. Ruprecht, we learned that this chelator is not likely to bind gadolinium. Our evaluation of available data confirmed his statement (see Table 4).
Some physicians claim treatment success by using combination treatments such as DMPS+CaEDTA or DMPS+ZnDTPA. In our database, we could find few pairs of pre and post chelation samples involving such pre and post test results. Those located did not prove that gadolinium binding happened with chelation (Table 5 and 6).
We also evaluated the binding ability of the oral chelator DMSA with gadolinium. Of the 34 pairs, 24 of the unchallenged urine samples showed slightly higher Gd concentrations than the samples after chelation.
Note: Urine creatinine levels are used to mathematically convert mcg/l values to mcg/g creatinine. This conversion is commonly used today because it reduces the potentially great margin of error that result from an incorrect sample volume given. A low urine creatinine level of 0.3 g/l or less affects the mathematical conversion factor, elevating test results. Low urine creatinine levels are generally the result of overhydration. High urine creatinine levels above 2 g/l are either due to dehydration or renal stress.
Our data clearly indicates that a Gd provocation urine test value can only be judged after it has been compared with a Gd-test result from an unprovoked urine.
As expected, DMPS is not able to bind and detoxify gadolinium compounds, and our data indicates that combination treatments involving the chelating agents DMPS, DTPA, EDTA or DMSA seem equally unsuccessful in increasing the elimination of gadolinium via the renal system. The use of oral DMSA may support the thought that Gd-binding could possibly happen, leading to increased renal elimination, but this is highly unlikely as DMSA is a chelator that is chemically similar to, but much weaker than DMPS.
Our data indicates that none of the chelating agents discussed here sufficiently binds and eliminates gadolinium via the renal system. However, just recently, a preliminary case report on 25 patients demonstrated that CaDTPA and ZnDTPA may be useful for the treatment of patients with gadolinium deposition disease (Semelka RC 2018). For that study, 24-hour urine samples were analyzed before and after chelation treatment, showing treatment success. However, not all pre-urine samples were taken immediately prior to treatment. Urine creatinine levels were not specified, which could lead to misinterpretation of results.
Our results are based on urine creatinine levels, but chelation treatment protocols did not involve a 24-hour urine collection. Instead, urine collection was based on the chelator's half-life plus time of administration. For a ZnDTPA injection or an EDTA infusion, that would be 45 minutes plus time of administration.
Clearly, more studies are needed. In future studies, test results should be supported by precise clinical information regarding the contrast agent name, the amount and time of the GBCA given, plus the amount and time of chelating agent administration. Protocols must be determined and followed, including urine collection times.
It would be of interest to find out if linear and macrocyclic GBCAs are retained, and if chelation treatment is an option for linear and macrocyclic GBCAs. Furthermore, it should be cleared if patient reactions are due to gadolinium toxicity or immune reactions, or both, and to which degree renal support such as orthomolecular treatments increase the body's own detoxification ability.
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Agarwal R, et al. Gadolinium-based contrast agents and nephrogenic systemic fibrosis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Nephrol Dial Transplant. 2009;24(3): 856-63.
Dawson P, Punwani S. NSF: What We Know and What We Need to Know. Semin Dial. January 23, 2008.
Grobner T. Gadolinium--a specific trigger for the development of nephrogenic fibrosing dermopathy and nephrogenic systemic fibrosis? Nephrol Dial Transplant. 2006. 21:1104-1108.
Hemsen J. Einfluss der MR-Kontrastmittel MultiHance, Omniscan und Teslascan auf humane embryonale Lungenfibroblasten und humane Nabelschnurenendothelzellen. Dissertation zur Erlangung des Doktorgrades der Medizin. Med. Fakultat Erlangen 2012.
Marckmann P, et al. Nephrogenic systemic fibrosis: suspected causative role of gadodiamide used for contrast-enhancing magnetic resonance imaging. J Am Soc Nephrol. 2006; 17(9):2359-62.
Semelka RC, et al. Intravenous Calcium/Zinc-Diethylene Triamine Penta-Acetic Acid in Patients with Presumed Gadolinium Deposition Disease. Investigative Radiology. 2018.
by E. Blaurock-Busch, PhD
Table 2: Overview of Gadolinium-based Contrast Agents Product Structure/Application Artirem/Dotarem/Dotarem Macrocyclic / intra-articular Arthro (Gadoterate meglumine) Gadovist (Gadobutrol) Macrocyclic / i.v. Prohance (Gadoteridol) Macrocyclic / i.v. Magnevist (Gd-DTPA) Linear / intra-articular Magnevist (Gd-DTPA) Linear / i.v. Multihance Linear / i.v. (Gadobenat dimeglumine) Omniscan (Gadodiamid) Linear / i.v. Optimark (Gadoversetamide) Linear / i.v. Primovist or Eovist (GdDTPA) Linear / i.v. Product Indication Artirem/Dotarem/Dotarem For MRI in brain (intracranial), spine Arthro (Gadoterate meglumine) and associated tissues in adult and pediatric patients (including term neonates) to detect and visualize areas with disruption of the blood brain barrier (BBB) and/or abnormal vascularity. Gadovist (Gadobutrol) For adults and children of all ages including full-term newborns for contrast enhancement in cranial and spinal MRI. This includes differentiation of intra- and extramedullary tumors, demonstration of solid tumor areas in known syrinx, determination of intramedullary tumor spread. Prohance (Gadoteridol) For use in MRI in adults and children over 2 years of age to visualize lesions with abnormal vascularity in the brain (intracranial lesions), spine and associated tissues, including lesions in the head and neck. Magnevist (Gd-DTPA) Used for MRI in adults, and pediatric patients (2 years of age and older) to visualize lesions with abnormal vascularity in the brain (intracranial lesions), spine and associated tissues. Contraindicated in patients with severe kidney disease Magnevist (Gd-DTPA) Use suspended in EU. Contraindicated in patients with severe kidney disease Multihance Use suspended in EU. In USA, used for MRI (Gadobenat dimeglumine) of CNS in adults and pediatric patients to visualize abnormal blood-brain barrier or abnormal vascularity of brain, spine and associated tissue. Also used in adults with known or suspected renal or aorto-ilio-femoral occlusive vascular disease Omniscan (Gadodiamid) Use suspended in EU. Can cause spurious hypocalcemia, particularly at doses of 0.2 mmol/kg or higher in patients with renal insufficiency. Used in MRI to visualize lesions with abnormal vascularity (or those thought to cause abnormalities in the blood-brain barrier) in the brain (intracranial lesions), spine, and associated tissues, also used to facilitate the visualization of lesions with abnormal vascularity within the thoracic (noncardiac), abdominal, pelvic cavities, and the retroperitoneal space (FDA) Optimark (Gadoversetamide) Use suspended in EU. Primovist or Eovist (GdDTPA) To diagnose certain liver disorders and to visualize blood vessels, organs, and other non- bony tissues Table 3: Theoretical Reduction after Administration of 20 ml Omniscan (Gadodiamide) Hours after iv-admin [micro]g Contrast agent 0.0 5740000 1.3 287000 2.6 1435000 3.9 717500 5.2 358750 6.5 179375 7.8 89687.5 9.1 44843.8 10.4 22421.9 11.7 11210.9 13.0 5605.5 14.3 2802.7 15.6 1401.4 16.9 700.7 18.2 350.3 19.5 175.2 20.8 87.6 22.1 43.8 23.4 21.9 24.7 10.9 26.0 5.5 27.3 2.7 28.6 1.4 29.9 0.7 31.2 0.3 32.5 0.2 Table 4: Gadolinium in Urine Before and After Chelation with DMPS iv, 250 mg (1 Ampule) Urine Test Value Urine concentration before Chelation after DMPS iv, in mcg/g 250 mg in mcg/g Chelation Creatinine Creatinine Assessment 3096 2340 unsuccessful 563 536 ditto 525 507 ditto 766 574 ditto 3703 2186 ditto 238 63 ditto 11 10 ditto 97 97 ditto 91 65 ditto 40 35 ditto 112 76 ditto 230 138 ditto 31 32 ditto 74 52 ditto 21 20 ditto 189 178 ditto 21 21 ditto 109 101 ditto 77 60 ditto 15 13 ditto 494 449 ditto 383 318 ditto 63 29 ditto 11 10 ditto 97 97 ditto Table 5: Gd in Urine Before and After Chelation with DMPS+CaEDTA Urine Test Value Urine concentration before Chelation after DMPS iv, 250 mg + in mcg/g CaEDTA, 1.9 g iv Creatinine in mcg/g Creatinine Assessment 189 178 Unsuccessful 1424 1284 ditto 46 29 ditto 586 281 ditto 1865 1788 ditto 189 178 ditto Table 6: Gd in Urine Before and After Chelation with DMPS+ZnDTPA Urine Test Value Urine concentration before Chelation after DMPS+ZnDTPA, in mcg/g 1 Amp, each iv Creatinine in mcg/g Creatinine Assessment 696 512 Unsuccessful 8 5 ditto Table 7: Gd in Urine Before and After Chelation with DMSA Urine Test Value Urine concentration before Chelation after DMSA oral, in mcg/g 500-1 000mg in Creatinine mcg/g Creatinine Assessment 696 550 Unsuccessful 735 552 Ditto 768 610 Ditto 37 11 Ditto 9 5 Ditto 20 21 See note 24 19 Unsuccessful 6 6 Ditto 13 8 Ditto 293 187 Ditto 40 30 Ditto 108 80 Ditto 9 9 Ditto 29 30 Ditto 195 174 Ditto 696 551 Ditto 303 317 See note 104 87 Unsuccessful 93 97 See note 9 7 Unsuccessful 344 328 Ditto 23 17 Ditto 9 10 See note 9 10 See note 16 17 See note 11 12 See note 10 7 Unsuccessful 9 10 See note 189 217 See note 13 8 Unsuccessful 8 6 Ditto 21 17 Ditto 18 11 Ditto 7 8 See note
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|Date:||May 1, 2019|
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