Extracellular gadolinium contrast agents: differences in stability

Eur J Radiol. 2008 May;66(2):175-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ejrad.2008.01.025. Epub 2008 Mar 14.


Extracellular gadolinium contrast agents (Gd-CA) are either linear or macrocyclic chelates available as ionic or non-ionic preparations. The molecular structure whether cyclic or linear and ionicity determines the stability of Gd-CA. Linear chelates are flexible open chains which do not offer a strong binding to Gd(3+). In contrast, the macrocyclic chelates offer a strong binding to Gd(3+) by the virtue of being preorganized rigid rings of almost optimal size to cage the gadolinium atom. Non-ionic preparations are also less stable in comparison to the ionic ones as the binding between Gd(3+) with the negatively charged carboxyl groups is stronger in comparison to that with amides or alcohol in the non-ionic preparations. According to stability constants and kinetic measurements, the most stable Gd-CM is the ionic-macrocyclic chelate Gd-DOTA and the least stable agents are the non-ionic linear chelates gadodiamide and gadoversetamide. In vivo data confirmed the low stability of non-ionic linear chelates but no significant difference was observed amongst the macrocyclic agents whether ionic (Gd-DOTA) or non-ionic such as Gd-HP-DO3A and Gd-BT-DO3A. The stability of Gd-CA seems to be an important factor in the pathogenesis of the serious complication of nephrogenic systemic fibrosis. Gd-CA of low stability are likely to undergo transmetallation and release free Gd ions that deposit in tissue and attract circulating fibrocytes to initiate the process of fibrosis. No cases of NSF have been observed so far after the exclusive use of the stable macrocyclic Gd-CA.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Contrast Media / adverse effects
  • Contrast Media / chemistry*
  • Drug Stability*
  • Fibrosis / chemically induced
  • Gadolinium / adverse effects
  • Gadolinium / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Kidney Diseases / chemically induced
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Skin Diseases / chemically induced


  • Contrast Media
  • Gadolinium