Published Online:https://doi.org/10.1148/radiol.2017161595

Our findings demonstrate that gadolinium deposition in neuronal tissues occurs even in the absence of intracranial abnormalities among patients exposed to multiple gadolinium-enhanced MR examinations.

Purpose

To determine whether gadolinium deposits in neural tissues of patients with intracranial abnormalities following intravenous gadolinium-based contrast agent (GBCA) exposure might be related to blood-brain barrier integrity by studying adult patients with normal brain pathologic characteristics.

Materials and Methods

After obtaining antemortem consent and institutional review board approval, the authors compared postmortem neuronal tissue samples from five patients who had undergone four to 18 gadolinium-enhanced magnetic resonance (MR) examinations between 2005 and 2014 (contrast group) with samples from 10 gadolinium-naive patients who had undergone at least one MR examination during their lifetime (control group). All patients in the contrast group had received gadodiamide. Neuronal tissues from the dentate nuclei, pons, globus pallidus, and thalamus were harvested and analyzed with inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS), transmission electron microscopy with energy-dispersive x-ray spectroscopy, and light microscopy to quantify, localize, and assess the effects of gadolinium deposition.

Results

Tissues from the four neuroanatomic regions of gadodiamide-exposed patients contained 0.1–19.4 μg of gadolinium per gram of tissue in a statistically significant dose-dependent relationship (globus pallidus: ρ = 0.90, P = .04). In contradistinction, patients in the control group had undetectable levels of gadolinium with ICP-MS. All patients had normal brain pathologic characteristics at autopsy. Three patients in the contrast group had borderline renal function (estimated glomerular filtration rate <45 mL/min/1.73 m2) and hepatobiliary dysfunction at MR examination. Gadolinium deposition in the contrast group was localized to the capillary endothelium and neuronal interstitium and, in two cases, within the nucleus of the cell.

Conclusion

Gadolinium deposition in neural tissues after GBCA administration occurs in the absence of intracranial abnormalities that might affect the permeability of the blood-brain barrier. These findings challenge current understanding of the biodistribution of these contrast agents and their safety.

© RSNA, 2017

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Article History

Received July 24, 2016; revision requested October 17; revision received March 8, 2017; accepted March 20; final version accepted March 27.
Published online: June 27 2017
Published in print: Nov 2017