Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis

Gadolinium and Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis

Nephrogenic systemic fibrosis, or NSF, is a relatively new disease that experts have linked to the use of gadolinium,-based contrast agents—chemical dyes used prior to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to enhance results. The Food and Drug Administration first alerted the medical community and public about this link in June 2006, then again in December. In May 2007, the agency asked that the labeling of gadolinium-based MRI dyes be updated to include the risk of nephrogenic systemic fibrosis in patients with kidney disease or insufficiencies.

Background

Nehprogenic systemic fibrosis was first recognized in 1997, and the absence of cases before that time suggested to experts that the disease might be linked to recent medical techniques, medications or toxic exposures. Gadolinium is a heavy metal ion and toxin that naturally occurs in the earth, not the body. Makers of gadolinium-based dyes stabilize the ion with organic agents so it can be used in the body. Patients with normal kidney function rapidly flush the agents, but kidney disease impairs this process.

At first, the disease was thought to be primarily dermatologic—only affecting the skin—and was thus called nephrogenic fibrosing dermopathy, or NFD. However, the autopsy of a man with the disease showed that the disease was systemic—that is, it also affected other bodily systems such as internal organs. This called for more exact medical terminology, and the name of the disease was slightly altered.

As more and more cases of nephrogenic systemic fibrosis began cropping up, it became clear to medical experts that there was indeed a direct link between gadolinium-based contrast agents and development of the disease. Numerous reports of patients who received a gadolinium-based dye prior to an MRI and who were subsequently diagnosed with NSF have surfaced in recent years.

Symptoms of Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis

Symptoms of nephrogenic systemic fibrosis include thickening of the skin, joint contractures, inhibited mobility, and reddened/darkened patches of skin, among other things. According to the FDA, the development of NSF after receiving a gadolinium-based agent can take anywhere from two days to 18 months.

There is not yet a consistently successful treatment for nephrogenic systemic fibrosis, and some patients have died as a result of complications caused by NSF. However, treatments may include oral steroids, physical therapy, and ultraviolet therapy.

Take Action

If you’ve been diagnosed with nephrogenic systemic fibrosis, you should consult with an experienced product liability attorney as soon as possible. Protect your legal rights by contacting a nephrogenic systemic fibrosis lawyer today to arrange a free consultation.

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