Can MRI Scans Lead to Poisoning? Chuck Norris Thinks So & He’s Suing for $10M

Action movie hero and martial arts star Chuck Norris is fighting a new battle, and unfortunately this time a roundhouse kick won’t solve the problem. Norris and his wife are embroiled in a $10 million lawsuit with a number of healthcare companies, involving an alleged poisoning resulting from several MRI scans.

The legal case

Norris and his wife Gena claim that the usage of gadolinium, a metal agent used in a MRI scan, has resulted in Mrs. Norris suffering pain as a result of gadolinium deposition disease. Gena Norris underwent the MRI scan to be tested for rheumatoid arthritis, which turned out not to be an issue, but has since suffered what the Norris describe as “multiple, debilitating bouts of pain and burning throughout her body.” According to the complaint, Mrs. Norris has experienced everything from trouble breathing and violent body shakes to numbness and kidney damage.

Mr. and Mrs. Norris argue in the lawsuit that if they had been informed of the risks, Gena Norris would not have agreed to the gadolinium-based contrast agent. “We are pursuing this litigation to shine a light on a problem that has not been addressed by the pharmaceutical companies that make MRI contrast agents,” Gena Norris said in a statement through her attorney. “And we are trying to give a voice to the thousands of other victims who have been ignored.”

The couple is suing pharmaceutical distributor McKesson Corp. and the research and imaging arms of the Italian healthcare company Bracco, arguing that they were not told of the risks associated with gadolinium.

So far, Bracco has not commented much on the case, only saying that it takes patient safety seriously and stands behind its products.

What is gadolinium, and what are the dangers?

Using gadolinium-based contrast agents isn’t uncommon; in fact, it’s a rather prevalent practice in medicine. According to the American Society of Neuroradiology and American College of Radiology, gadolinium has been used in MRIs to help assist in the diagnosis and treatment of more than 300 million patients.

The chemicals in gadolinium give doctors enhanced visibility of organs and other tissues in the body during imaging tests, and allow them to better identify abnormalities, like a tumor.

Although gadolinium is regularly used in medical procedures, there has been growing concern of gadolinium retention in the brain tissue of patients who have been repeatedly exposed to it. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration first issued an alert regarding gadolinium retention three years ago, but in May 2017, released a follow-up statement saying there was no evidence brain deposits were linked to health issues.

“We evaluated scientific publications and adverse event reports submitted to the FDA,” reads part of the report. “These publications and reports show that gadolinium is retained in organs such as the brain, bones, and skin. The publications show that linear GBCAs retain more gadolinium in the brain than macrocyclic GBCAs. However, our review did not identify adverse health effects related to this brain retention.”

Most recently, a FDA advisory committee voted to alter the drug’s warning label to specify that a certain level of retention in the brain was possible, and add a recommended “risk minimization steps for certain patient populations.”

Radiologist and chair of the American College of Radiology Quality and Safety Commission, Jacqueline Bello said that more research is needed in order to build up a good body of evidence with science behind it, and that doctors must use “the best medical judgment in individual care of each patient.”

While the Norris’ might be the most high-profile case of gadolinium toxicity, it’s hardly the first. Around the same time they were filing their lawsuit, a Baltimore mother made the local news after having similar symptoms post MRI scan. While some reports claim it can take months for symptoms linked to gadolinium toxicity to appear, 31-year-old Samantha Goldsmith said her suffering began the day after. “I went to bed that night and woke up the next morning, 12 hours later, with a pain in my right shoulder blade, in the back, and it just felt like a stabbing pain,” she told WMAR news.

The issue is prevalent enough that an MRI Gadolinium Toxicity support group has existed since 2012. It currently retains 481 members.

As for Chuck and Gena Norris, they say their focus at the moment remains on Gena’s health, adding that they’re “working together to speak out about the dangers of MRI contrast agents.”

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