Safety of gadolinium contrast angiography in patients with chronic renal insufficiency

J Vasc Surg. 2003 Aug;38(2):313-8. doi: 10.1016/s0741-5214(03)00315-x.


Objective: To prevent iodinated contrast medium-induced nephrotoxicity, gadolinium has been used increasingly for magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) or conventional digital subtraction angiography (DSA) to visualize arterial anatomy in patients undergoing vascular surgery who are considered at high risk because of chronic renal insufficiency. We assessed the safety of gadolinium-based contrast medium as a substitute for iodinated contrast medium-enhanced examinations. We determined the incidence of gadolinium-induced nephrotoxicity in a clinical setting and searched for contributing risk factors. Patients and methods In a single-center retrospective study from December 1999 to January 2001, 218 inpatients underwent MRA and 42 inpatients underwent DSA, with gadolinium as the sole contrast agent. Patient comorbid conditions, indications for vascular imaging, contrast dose, urine output, baseline and post-procedure serum creatinine concentration (SCr), and outcome were recorded for all patients in whom gadolinium-induced renal failure developed.

Results: Of 260 patients who received gadolinium-based contrast agents, at a dose of 0.25 mmol/kg or more, 195 patients (75%) had pre-test baseline chronic renal insufficiency. In 7 of 195 patients (3.5%) acute renal failure developed after gadolinium-based contrast medium administration, for MRA (n = 153) in 3 patients (1.9%) and DSA (n = 42) in 4 patients (9.5%). Average baseline SCr in the 195 patients with chronic renal insufficiency was 38.2 +/- 1.6 mL/min/1.73 m(2), and in the 7 patients in whom acute renal failure developed, baseline SCr was 32.5 +/- 7.8 mL/min/1.73 m(2) (P =.33). Respective intravenous and intra-arterial gadolinium doses in these 7 patients ranged from 0.31 to 0.41 mmol/kg for MRA and 0.27 to 0.42 mmol/kg for DSA. Acute renal failure did not develop in any of 65 patients with normal baseline SCr.

Conclusion: Despite reports of negligible nephrotoxicity, rarely gadolinium-based contrast agents can cause acute renal failure in patients with underlying chronic renal insufficiency. Estimation of creatinine clearance alone does not enable prediction of which patients are likely to have acute renal failure. Patients at high-risk should be identified, and prophylactic measures should be taken to reduce the risk for nephrotoxicity.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Kidney Injury / chemically induced*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Angiography / methods
  • Comorbidity
  • Contrast Media / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Gadolinium / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Contrast Media
  • Gadolinium