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Urgent: What You Need to Know Before Getting an MRI

Urgent: What You Need to Know Before Getting an MRI
April 24
09:52 2017

(HSI) – Paul Decker was 61 when his doctor ordered an MRI scan. That was the day his life changed forever.

Not because of anything the scan found, but because of what it did to Paul’s body. It turned his skin thick and hard, like “wood or granite” — something that makes it very difficult for him to even move.

Loralei Knase was 68 when an MRI left her permanently disabled. Like Paul, her entire body is stiff and swollen.

It sounds like the plot of a sci-fi movie — people being turned into wood.

But what struck down Paul and Loralei and hundreds, maybe thousands, of other patients is called nephrogenic systemic fibrosis (NSF), and it’s triggered by a commonly-used dye given to enhance the imaging taken during an MRI scan.

And NSF, as horrifying as it is, isn’t all that such dyes can do to you.

Health regulators in Europe, however, have had enough, and recently insisted that they be banned.

So why isn’t the FDA doing likewise?

Too little, too late

It’s called gadolinium, a “rare earth metal” that’s used to make contrasting dyes for an “enhanced MRI.” The dye is injected into your blood so the test produces a clearer image.

As you may have guessed, gadolinium is extremely toxic. So much so, in fact, that it has to be bound to another molecule so patients aren’t immediately poisoned by it.

But if you question your doctor about why you should have a deadly poison put inside of you, no doubt you’ll be told not to worry.

The “story” is that your kidneys will filter it out and it will be excreted in your urine before any harm is done.

Only that’s not what happens to everyone who is injected with a gadolinium dye.

Over a decade ago, it was discovered that if your kidneys are less than perfect, you’re a sitting duck for NSF, that horrible skin disease that hit Paul and Loralei. So, the FDA finally limped into action and had manufacturers add a black-box warning about not using it in patients with kidney problems.

But that’s not the end. Not by a long shot.

Several years ago, radiologists from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Ohio State carefully looked at previous research on these dyes, finding enough evidence to conclude that they can accumulate in your body — especially the brain — even if your kidneys are perfect.

And that makes sense.

Because back in the 1990s, some of the original human trials done on gadolinium-based dyes discovered that after three weeks, 25 percent of the chemical injected into study volunteers was still in their bodies! It wasn’t being passed in the urine as expected.

So what did the researchers do? Why, they went ahead and published the results of that study, saying Omniscan (one of the brand names of this type of dye) is “safe and effective”… and simply ignoring the fact that a quarter of the poison wasn’t accounted for.

And what the long-term risks might be as the stuff lingers (especially for kids) is a giant question mark.

We do know, however, that some research has found gadolinium can promote cancer-cell growth. And that the metal has been found in several brain tumor biopsies.

As I said, the FDA has been simply sitting on its hands since issuing the kidney warning.

But in Europe, it’s another story.

The European Medicines Agency has recommended that these dyes be prohibited in EU countries (such as France and Germany), prompting General Electric Healthcare, which now owns Omniscan, to campaign to keep it on the market there.

I guess GE must be wishing that all regulators were as nice to them as the FDA has been!

The bottom line is that we can’t expect any further action out of the FDA on this matter, so here’s what you need to do:

  • If you are scheduled to have an MRI, ask if it will be “enhanced” with Omniscan or any other gadolinium-based dye. Dr. Spreen advices that these dyes be “adamantly refused” by everyone.
  • Before agreeing to an MRI, ask your doctor why he ordered it. These tests are very frequently done simply to limit a doctor’s liability in case of a lawsuit. Studies have found that they are overused in many cases, most often in diagnosing back pain.
  • And if you’ve already been subjected to one — or more — of these enhanced MRI tests, you can learn more about your risks by visiting

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