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Originally published May 30 2008

MRI Dyes Poisoning Patients, Turning Skin into "Marble"

by David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) In some patients with kidney problems, a common dye used in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tests may lead to an incurable and potentially fatal disease that causes skin to turn hard and immobile.

Nephrogenic systemic fibrosis (NSF) is a poorly understood medical condition in which collagen builds up in the skin and makes it hard and immobile, making it come to resemble marble. NSF can also cause collagen to build up in the heart, lungs and liver, with potentially fatal consequences.

More than 95 percent of NSF cases are known to have occurred within three months of a patient being exposed to dyes made with a magnetic ion called gadolinium. Gadolinium dyes are used in MRIs because they bind to specific tissues, increasing the contrast and usefulness of the images.

In May, the FDA asked for a black box warning on all gadolinium-based products, warning that a single exposure may be enough to cause NSF in kidney patients. The FDA advised kidney patients undergoing MRIs to request that their physicians not use contrasting dyes in the exam unless it is absolutely necessary.

A black box warning is the strongest warning the FDA can issue without banning a product. However, the FDA has approved no other dyes for use in multi-purpose MRIs; only two other dyes are approved for certain liver problems.

According to Shawn E. Cowper, a dermatologic pathologist at Yale University who first identified NSF, as many as one in 20 kidney patients could be at risk if exposed to gadolinium.

"I don't think there's been a day in the last, probably, two years that's gone by that I haven't cried at least once about this," said Sarah Fracella, who developed NSF after receiving an MRI. Due to the hardening of her skin, Fracella has trouble sitting or walking, and is unable to open bottles.

"It's been the hardest thing I've ever had to deal with."

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