I need to have an MRI, but I have kidney problems. Can an MRI hurt my kidneys?

Answer From Fouad Chebib. M.D.

It depends on the type of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan you have. An MRI can be done with contrast or without contrast. An MRI done without contrast causes no special concerns for people with kidney problems.

An MRI with contrast uses contrast agents to enhance the MRI scan. Contrast agents are injected into a vein in the hand or arm. The contrast agents used for MRI scans often contain a chemical element called gadolinium (gad-oh-LIN-e-um).

Newer contrast agents that contain gadolinium are generally safe for people with kidney disease, even those who receive dialysis. But that might not be the case with older contrast agents. The type of gadolinium used in older contrast agents isn't safe for people with moderate or advanced chronic kidney disease.

Older versions of contrast agents that contain gadolinium increase the risk of a rare but serious disease called nephrogenic systemic fibrosis. This disease triggers thickening of the skin, organs and other tissues. In some cases, it can cause death.

The discovery of this rare disease led to the development of newer, safer versions of gadolinium contrast agents. But a small risk still remains.

Before you have an MRI, make sure your health care provider knows about your kidney problems. Blood tests can show how well your kidneys work. This can help determine your risk of nephrogenic systemic fibrosis.

If you receive dialysis, your care provider may advise that you have dialysis right after the MRI. Dialysis is a procedure that uses a machine to filter and remove waste from the blood. This helps your body get rid of the contrast agent after the MRI. It also may lessen the risk of harm to your kidneys.

If you need to have an MRI with an older gadolinium contrast agent, your provider may want you to have dialysis once a day for up to three days after the scan. This may lower the risk of nephrogenic systemic fibrosis. Talk with your kidney care team about the best approach in your case.


Fouad Chebib. M.D.

From Mayo Clinic to your inbox

Sign up for free and stay up to date on research advancements, health tips, current health topics, and expertise on managing health. Click here for an email preview.

To provide you with the most relevant and helpful information, and understand which information is beneficial, we may combine your email and website usage information with other information we have about you. If you are a Mayo Clinic patient, this could include protected health information. If we combine this information with your protected health information, we will treat all of that information as protected health information and will only use or disclose that information as set forth in our notice of privacy practices. You may opt-out of email communications at any time by clicking on the unsubscribe link in the e-mail.

Sept. 29, 2022 See more Expert Answers

See also

  1. Medication-free hypertension control
  2. Alcohol: Does it affect blood pressure?
  3. Alpha blockers
  4. Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
  5. Angiotensin II receptor blockers
  6. Antiphospholipid syndrome
  7. Anxiety: A cause of high blood pressure?
  8. Beta blockers
  9. Beta blockers: Do they cause weight gain?
  10. Beta blockers: How do they affect exercise?
  11. Blood pressure: Can it be higher in one arm?
  12. Blood pressure chart
  13. Blood pressure cuff: Does size matter?
  14. Blood pressure: Does it have a daily pattern?
  15. Blood pressure: Is it affected by cold weather?
  16. Blood pressure medication: Still necessary if I lose weight?
  17. Blood pressure medications: Can they raise my triglycerides?
  18. Blood pressure readings: Why higher at home?
  19. Blood pressure tip: Get more potassium
  20. Blood pressure tip: Get off the couch
  21. Blood pressure tip: Know alcohol limits
  22. Blood pressure tip: Stress out no more
  23. Blood pressure tip: Watch the caffeine
  24. Blood pressure tip: Watch your weight
  25. Video: Kidney transplant
  26. How kidneys work
  27. Caffeine and hypertension
  28. Calcium channel blockers
  29. Calcium supplements: Do they interfere with blood pressure drugs?
  30. Can whole-grain foods lower blood pressure?
  31. Central-acting agents
  32. Chest pain
  33. Choosing blood pressure medicines
  34. Chronic kidney disease
  35. Chronic kidney disease: Is a clinical trial right for me?
  36. Deceased-donor kidney transplant
  37. Dialysis access management
  38. Diuretics
  39. Diuretics: A cause of low potassium?
  40. Do you know your blood pressure?
  41. Eating right for chronic kidney disease
  42. High blood pressure and exercise
  43. Fatigue
  44. Fibromuscular dysplasia
  45. Free blood pressure machines: Are they accurate?
  46. Home blood pressure monitoring
  47. Hemodialysis
  48. Hemodialysis
  49. Hemodialysis access maintenance
  50. High blood pressure (hypertension)
  51. High blood pressure and cold remedies: Which are safe?
  52. High blood pressure and sex
  53. High blood pressure: Can you prevent it?
  54. High blood pressure dangers
  55. How does IgA nephropathy (Berger's disease) cause kidney damage?
  56. What is hypertension? A Mayo Clinic expert explains.
  57. Hypertension FAQs
  58. Hypertensive crisis: What are the symptoms?
  59. I have IgA nephrology. Will I need a kidney transplant?
  60. Isolated systolic hypertension: A health concern?
  61. Kidney biopsy
  62. Kidney dialysis: When is it time to stop?
  63. Kidney donation: Are there long-term risks?
  64. What is kidney disease? An expert explains
  65. Kidney disease FAQs
  66. Kidney transplant
  67. L-arginine: Does it lower blood pressure?
  68. Living with IgA nephropathy (Berger's disease) and C3G
  69. Living-donor kidney transplant
  70. Low-phosphorus diet: Helpful for kidney disease?
  71. Medications and supplements that can raise your blood pressure
  72. Menopause and high blood pressure: What's the connection?
  73. Muscle twitching
  74. Nausea and vomiting
  75. Nondirected living-donor transplant
  76. Infographic: Paired Donation Chain
  77. Peritoneal dialysis
  78. Preemptive kidney transplant
  79. Pulse pressure: An indicator of heart health?
  80. Renal diet for vegetarians
  81. Resperate: Can it help reduce blood pressure?
  82. Shortness of breath
  83. Sleep deprivation: A cause of high blood pressure?
  84. Stress and high blood pressure
  85. Transplant friends
  86. Ultrasound
  87. Understanding complement 3 glomerulopathy (C3G)
  88. Understanding IgA nephropathy (Berger's disease)
  89. Urinalysis
  90. Vasodilators
  91. How to measure blood pressure using a manual monitor
  92. How to measure blood pressure using an automatic monitor
  93. What is blood pressure?
  94. Can a lack of vitamin D cause high blood pressure?
  95. What's your high blood pressure risk?
  96. White coat hypertension
  97. Wrist blood pressure monitors: Are they accurate?
  98. Effectively managing chronic kidney disease