Intravenous contrast media, specifically the gadolinium chelates, are well accepted for use in the clinical practice of magnetic resonance imaging. The gadolinium chelates are considered to be very safe and lack (in intravenous use) the nephrotoxicity found with iodinated contrast media. Minor adverse reactions, including nausea and hives, occur in a low percentage of cases. The four agents currently available in the United States cannot be differentiated on the basis of these adverse reactions. Severe anaphylactoid reactions are also known to occur with all agents, although these are uncommon. This review discusses the safety issues involved with intravenous administration of the gadolinium chelates and off-label use. The latter is common in clinical practice and permits broader application of these agents.