Gadolinium-Containing Magnetic Resonance Imaging Contrast and Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis: A Case-Control Study

Alexander J. Kallen, Michael A. Jhung, Steven Cheng, Theresa Hess, George Turabelidze, Liana Abramova, Matthew Arduino, Jeannette Guarner, Brian Pollack, Georges Saab, Priti R. Patel

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Background: Nephrogenic systemic fibrosis (NSF) is a newly described disorder occurring in persons with renal failure. Gadolinium-based contrast used in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has been suggested as a cause. A cluster of patients with NSF was investigated to identify risk factors. Limited preliminary findings from this investigation were presented in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Study Design: Matched case-control. Setting & Participants: Dialysis patients with and without a diagnosis of NSF treated at an academic medical center. Predictor: Exposure to gadolinium-based contrast. Outcomes & Measurements: Laboratory and clinical characteristics of NSF. Results: 19 of 28 cases identified at the hospital from December 2002 to August 2006 met inclusion criteria and were matched to 57 controls. In univariate analysis, receipt of gadolinium-containing MRI contrast in the preceding year (odds ratio [OR], 7.99; 95% confidence interval, 2.22 to 28.8) was associated with NSF; the measure of association increased as cumulative dose increased. Gadodiamide exposure (OR, 9.83; 95% confidence interval, 2.09 to 46.2) was associated more strongly with NSF than gadoversetamide (OR, 1.82; 95% confidence interval, 0.33 to 10.2). Although not statistically significant, cases were more likely than controls to have undergone primarily peritoneal dialysis in the preceding 6 months. There was no significant difference in receipt of high-dose recombinant erythropoietin between cases and controls. In multivariable analysis, gadolinium contrast exposure (OR, 8.97; 95% confidence interval, 1.28 to 63.0) remained significantly associated with NSF. Limitations: Retrospective design, small sample size, inability to completely evaluate erythropoietin. Conclusions: Receipt of gadolinium-containing MRI contrast is associated with NSF in a dose-dependent manner. The risk associated with gadolinium may differ by contrast agent and dialysis modality. Use of gadolinium-based contrast agents should be avoided when possible in patients with renal failure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)966-975
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Kidney Diseases
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2008


  • Nephrogenic systemic fibrosis
  • end-stage renal disease
  • gadolinium


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