Introduction: Gadolinium-based contrast agents (GBCAs) have been used clinically since 1988 for contrast-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (CE-MRI). Generally, GBCAs are considered to have an excellent safety profile. However, GBCA administration has been associated with increased occurrence of nephrogenic systemic fibrosis (NSF) in patients with severely compromised renal function, and several studies have shown evidence of gadolinium deposition in specific brain structures, the globus pallidus and dentate nucleus, in patients with normal renal function.
Methods: Gadolinium deposition in the brain following repeated CE-MRI scans has been demonstrated in patients using T1-weighted unenhanced MRI and inductively coupled plasma mass spectroscopy. Additionally, rodent studies with controlled GBCA administration also resulted in neural gadolinium deposits.
Results: Repeated GBCA use is associated with gadolinium deposition in the brain. This is especially true with the use of less-stable, linear GBCAs. In spite of increasing evidence of gadolinium deposits in the brains of patients after multiple GBCA administrations, the clinical significance of these deposits continues to be unclear.
Conclusion: Here, we discuss the current state of scientific evidence surrounding gadolinium deposition in the brain following GBCA use, and the potential clinical significance of gadolinium deposition. There is considerable need for further research, both to understand the mechanism by which gadolinium deposition in the brain occurs and how it affects the patients in which it occurs.
Keywords: Contrast media; Dentate nucleus; Gadolinium deposition; Globus pallidus; Magnetic resonance imaging.