Aug. 7 (UPI) -- New research suggests doctors conduct a risk-benefit analysis before administering gadolinium, a common contrast agent injected into a patient's veins before undergoing an MRI scan.
Recent studies have shown contrast agent deposits can accumulate in the brain. In some patients, excessive exposure to contrast agents can harm the liver and pancreas. Scientists have yet to establish a direct link between brain deposits and disease.
"Small amounts of gadolinium deposit in certain parts of the brain in people who undergo repeated gadolinium-based contrast agent enhanced exams," Dr. Vikas Gulani, an associate professor of radiology, urology, and biomedical engineering at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, said in a news release.
The new survey offers guidelines on the use of gadolinium and other heavy metal contrast agents. Researchers believe doctors should not employ the contrast agent unless the benefits are obvious.
"Nearly everyone needs an MRI scan at some point, often contrast enhanced," Gulani said. "The idea that some gadolinium could be depositing in the brain is disconcerting to patients. In that situation, putting the risk and benefits into context is important."
The risks of the contrast agent exposure to the patient is just one of several factors to be considered by healthcare providers.
Scientists published the findings of their survey this week in the journal Lancet Neurology.
Despite the risks, contrast agents like gadolinium may be the best choice for many patients. The compound is effective at identifying a range of diseases, including cancer and heart disease.
Scientists say more research is needed to exposure the potential health consequences of gadolinium and other contrast agents.