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Gadolinium (Breast MRI Contrast Agent)


Updated July 17, 2012


Gadolinium is a chemical element which can be compounded and dissolved into a clear fluid that is infused through an intravenous line and used as a contrast agent during a breast MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).



Also known as:

gadodiamide, periodic table element Gd, atomic number 64

Common Misspellings:

gadalinium, gadalineum


Gadolinium is injected into your bloodstream during a breast MRI, to increase contrast in the resulting images.

How Does it Work? :

As gadolinium flows through your bloodstream and enters the magnetic field, its temperature increases slightly (you won’t feel this effect because the amount of the element is so small). The signals created by the passing gadolinium are picked up by special radio equipment inside the MRI machine. Those signals are sent to a computer, which creates images of the breast tissue. The presence of the gadolinium in the veins highlights the circulation inside your breast, and helps create a high-contrast image. Gadolinium will cool off as it exits the magnetic field, and will be cleared from your system by your kidneys.

What are the FDA-approved gadolinium-based contrast agents?:

  • Omniscan
  • OptiMARK
  • Magnevist
  • ProHance
  • MultiHance

Are there any risks?:

There is no known risk from exposure to the radio waves used during an MRI session.

In December 2006, a Public Health Advisory was issued by the FDA about a rare skin disorder which can be caused by gadolinium. In some cases, gadolinium can cause nephrogenic systemic fibrosis or nephrogenic fibrosing dermopathy (NSF/NFD). NSF/NFD may occur two days to 18 months after exposure to gadolinium. It was reported in patients with kidney failure and acidosis.

Don't Worry About Gadolinium and Breast MRI:

Since a breast MRI uses an extremely low dose of gadolinium, there is very little risk of overdose or side effects. A clear MRI scan, due to the use of gadolinium, is of great benefit for a woman at high risk for breast cancer.

There have been approximately 200 reports of NSF/NFD reported worldwide, in patients who were having a Magnetic Resonance Angiogram (MRA) test. An MRA uses up to three times more gadolinium than a breast MRI.


U. S. Food and Drug Administration. Public Health Advisory - Gadolinium-containing Contrast Agents for Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): Omniscan, OptiMARK, Magnevist, ProHance, and MultiHance. Last Updated: December 22, 2006. Public Health Advisory - Gadolinium-containing Contrast Agents for Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Wikipedia, Gadolinium. Gadolinium
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