Actor Chuck Norris is known for fighting evil foes on the television show “Walker, Texas Ranger.” Now, he’s taking on new adversaries in court. The actor is suing multiple health-care companies claiming his wife, Gena Norris, was poisoned by gadolinium during magnetic resonance imaging scans, a.k.a. an MRI.
In a lawsuit filed in the San Francisco Superior Court, Chuck and Gena Norris contended the metal utilized as a contrast agent in MRI scans resulted in Gena contracting gadolinium deposition disease. According to the Washington Post, the couple insisted Gena suffered long-term damage and experienced “multiple, debilitating bouts of pain and burning throughout her body.” Husband and wife are suing for more than $10 million in damages from companies they believe should have warned them of potential risks.
Doctors use MRIs to both diagnose numerous conditions and to see how well patients have responded to various treatments. This exam utilizes powerful magnets, radio waves, and a computer to produce detailed pictures inside of your body. MRIs don’t use radiation. They are completed on multiple parts of the body including the brain, heart, shoulders, knees, liver, and kidneys.
According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, approximately 117.8 MRIs were done per 1,000 Americans in 2015. According to a statement released last year from the American Society of Neuroradiology and American College of Radiology, gadolinium-based contract agents have been used in more than 300 million patients worldwide.
Gadolinium-based contract agents improve the visibility of blood vessels, organs, and other tissues in your body during MRIs. Therefore, they help physicians identify abnormalities such as tumors. Gena Norris initially underwent an MRI in order for her physician to ascertain if she had rheumatoid arthritis. Her doctor determined she didn’t have this disease.
However, after undergoing several MRIs subsequently, Gena Norris experienced numbness, tingling, weakness, and violent shaking. She also suffered from an agonizing burning pain throughout her body.
According to her complaint, Gena has since succumbed to kidney damage, difficulty breathing, and cognitive deficits. The couple insist Gena Norris wouldn’t have been administered a gadolinium-based contrast agent if they had known about the risks. In an effort to heighten awareness and help others who have experienced similar medical issues, the couple are suing the diagnostics, research, and imaging branches of Bracco S.p.A, an Italian health-care entity, pharmaceutical distributor McKesson Corp., and others claiming the companies knew of the risks of gadolinium-based contract agents and failed to warn them.
Studies have revealed gadolinium-based contrast agents can be retained in the brain and other body tissues. According to the Mayo Clinic, for some sufferers of advanced kidney disease, being exposed to certain gadolinium-based contrast agents during MRIs has been identified as a trigger for development of nephrogenic systemic fibrosis. This rare disease can cause a host of troublesome symptoms including:
- Swelling and tightening of your skin
- Burning, itching, or extremely sharp pains in affected areas of your body
- Skin thickening that hinders movement causing a loss of joint flexibility
- Blisters and ulcers
- Bone pain
- Muscle weakness
- Diminished internal organ function
- Yellow plaques on the sclera of your eyes
- Blood clots
You can develop nephrogenic systemic fibrosis mere days or months after exposure to gadolinium-based contrast agents. The potentially life-threatening disease progresses quickly.
A research study conducted by Olchowy C et al. in 2017 investigated the correlation between increased signal intensity in the globus pallidus and dentate nucleus in the brain and repeated administrations of gadolinium-based contrast agents. Researchers performed a systematic review of retrospective investigations in Medline and PubMed. They analyzed the MRIs of 1247 patients. They also looked at tissue specimens of 27 patients. Results showed a definite connection between signal intensity and exposure to gadolinium-based contrast agents. All of the tissue tests contained gadolinium.
The Food and Drug Administration, FDA, sponsored an advisory committee meeting in September of 2017. During this event, they listened to medical professionals, drug companies, and patient advocates concerning the risk of gadolinium retention in the brain and other organs. The committee voted to alter the warning on drug labels to reflect that some risk of gadolinium retention in the brain may exist. They also proposed risk mitigating actions for certain patient populations.
If you’re scheduled for an MRI, alert your physician of any health problems you have such as liver or kidney disease. Carefully weigh the possible benefits and risks of the procedure with your doctor before your exam day.
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