Real-Time Deformability Cytometry Detects Leukocyte Stiffening After Gadolinium-Based Contrast Agent Exposure

Invest Radiol. 2021 Dec 1;56(12):837-844. doi: 10.1097/RLI.0000000000000794.


Objectives: Reports on gadolinium (Gd) retention in soft tissues after administration of Gd-based contrast agents (GBCAs) raise concerns about Gd-induced changes in the biophysical properties of cells and tissues. Here, we investigate if clinical GBCAs of both classes of linear and macrocyclic structure cause changes in the mechanical properties of leukocytes in human blood samples.

Material and methods: Real-time deformability cytometry was applied to human blood samples from 6 donors. The samples were treated with 1 mM gadoteric acid (Dotarem), gadopentetic acid (Magnevist), gadobutrol (Gadovist), or Gd trichloride at 37°C for 1 hour to mimic clinical doses of GBCAs and exposure times. Leukocyte subtypes-lymphocytes, monocytes, and neutrophils-were identified based on their size and brightness and analyzed for deformability, which is inversely correlated with cellular stiffness.

Results: We observed significant stiffening (3%-13%, P < 0.01) of all investigated leukocyte subtypes, which was most pronounced for lymphocytes, followed by neutrophils and monocytes, and the effects were independent of the charge and steric structure of the GBCA applied. In contrast, no changes in cell size and brightness were observed, suggesting that deformability and cell stiffness measured by real-time deformability cytometry are sensitive to changes in the physical phenotypes of leukocytes after GBCA exposure.

Conclusions: Real-time deformability cytometry might provide a quantitative blood marker for critical changes in the physical properties of blood cells in patients undergoing GBCA-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Contrast Media* / chemistry
  • Gadolinium / chemistry
  • Gadolinium / pharmacology
  • Gadolinium DTPA
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Organometallic Compounds*


  • Contrast Media
  • Organometallic Compounds
  • Gadolinium
  • Gadolinium DTPA