Gadolinium-Based Contrast Agents in Kidney Disease: A Comprehensive Review and Clinical Practice Guideline Issued by the Canadian Association of Radiologists Academic Article uri icon

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  • Purpose of review: Use of gadolinium-based contrast agents (GBCA) in renal impairment is controversial, with physician and patient apprehension in acute kidney injury (AKI), chronic kidney disease (CKD), and dialysis because of concerns regarding nephrogenic systemic fibrosis (NSF). The position that GBCA are absolutely contraindicated in AKI, category G4 and G5 CKD (estimated glomerular filtration rate [eGFR] < 30 mL/min/1.73 m2), and dialysis-dependent patients is outdated and may limit access to clinically necessary contrast-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) examinations. This review and clinical practice guideline addresses the discrepancy between existing Canadian guidelines regarding use of GBCA in renal impairment and NSF. Sources of information: Published literature (including clinical trials, retrospective cohort series, review articles, and case reports), online registries, and direct manufacturer databases were searched for reported cases of NSF by class and specific GBCA and exposed patient population. Methods: A comprehensive review was conducted identifying cases of NSF and their association to class of GBCA, specific GBCA used, patient, and dose (when this information was available). Based on the available literature, consensus guidelines were developed by an expert panel of radiologists and nephrologists. Key findings: In patients with category G2 or G3 CKD (eGFR ≥ 30 and < 60 mL/min/1.73 m2), administration of standard doses of GBCA is safe and no additional precautions are necessary. In patients with AKI, with category G4 or G5 CKD (eGFR < 30 mL/min/1.73 m2) or on dialysis, administration of GBCA should be considered individually and alternative imaging modalities utilized whenever possible. If GBCA are necessary, newer GBCA may be administered with patient consent obtained by a physician (or their delegate) citing an exceedingly low risk (much less than 1%) of developing NSF. Standard GBCA dosing should be used; half or quarter dosing is not recommended and repeat injections should be avoided. Dialysis-dependent patients should receive dialysis; however, initiating dialysis or switching from peritoneal to hemodialysis to reduce the risk of NSF is unproven. Use of a macrocyclic ionic instead of macrocyclic nonionic GBCA or macrocyclic instead of newer linear GBCA to further prevent NSF is unproven. Gadopentetate dimeglumine, gadodiamide, and gadoversetamide remain absolutely contraindicated in patients with AKI, those with category G4 or G5 CKD, or those on dialysis. The panel agreed that screening for renal disease is important but less critical when using macrocyclic and newer linear GBCA. Monitoring for and reporting of potential cases of NSF in patients with AKI or CKD who have received GBCA is recommended. Limitations: Limited available literature (number of injections and use in renal impairment) regarding the use of gadoxetate disodium. Limited, but growing and generally high-quality, number of clinical trials evaluating GBCA administration in renal impairment. Limited data regarding the topic of Gadolinium deposition in the brain, particularly as it related to patients with renal impairment. Implications: In patients with AKI and category G4 and G5 CKD (eGFR < 30 mL/min/1.73 m2) and in dialysis-dependent patients who require GBCA-enhanced MRI, GBCA can be administered with exceedingly low risk of causing NSF when using macrocyclic agents and newer linear agents at routine doses.


  • Schieda, Nicola
  • Blaichman, Jason I
  • Costa, Andreu F
  • Glikstein, Rafael
  • Hurrell, Casey
  • James, Matthew
  • Jabehdar Maralani, Pejman
  • Shabana, Wael
  • Tang, An
  • Tsampalieros, Anne
  • Van Der Pol, Christian Balth
  • Hiremath, Swapnil

publication date

  • January 2018