Chelation of the rare-earth element gadolinium (Gd) with diethylenetriaminepentaacetic acid (DTPA) results in a strongly paramagnetic, stable complex that is well tolerated in animals. The strongly paramagnetic gadolinium complex reduces hydrogen-proton relaxation times even in low concentrations (less than 0.01 mmol/L). The pharmacokinetic behavior of intravenously delivered Gd-DTPA is similar to the well known iodinated contrast agents used in urography and angiography; excretion is predominantly through the kidneys with greater than 90% recovery in 24 hr. The intravenous LD50 of the meglumine salt of Gd-DTPA is 10 mmol/kg for the rat; in vivo there is no evidence of dissociation of the gadolinium ion from the DTPA ligand. The combination of strong proton relaxation, in-vivo stability, rapid urinary excretion, and high tolerance favors the further development and the potential clinical application of gadolinium-DTPA as a contrast enhancer in magnetic resonance imaging.