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What is nephrogenic systemic fibrosis?

Nephrogenic systemic fibrosis (NSF) is a rare medical condition that was first identified in 1997. It only occurs in patients with moderate to severe kidney disease.


NSF causes fibrosis of the skin and connective tissues throughout the body. Fibrosis is a medical term for the formation of extra tissue. It is similar to the formation of scars. In NSF, the fibrosis usually starts in the skin on the feet and legs. As the skin thickens and hardens, it becomes difficult to bend the feet, ankles, and knees. There may be shortening of the muscles in the joints. The fibrosis can also occur in the eyes and in the internal organs, especially in the diaphragm and lungs where it can affect breathing. NSF gets worse over time and can result in death.

There is known cure for NSF. Treatment focuses on slowing the progression of symptoms. Physical therapy can help prevent stiffness, but the best therapy is improving kidney function.


It is believed that NSF may be caused by exposure to gadolinium-based contrast agents during an MRI. Contrast agents are chemicals that are given either intravenously or orally to help with imaging. For most patients, MRI exams with contrast agents are very safe. After the procedure, the contrast agent is filtered out of the body. However, it believed that patients with kidney disease aren’t able to filter all the gadolinium out of their bodies. The gadolinium stimulates the formation of a type of cell known as a circulating fibrocyte. Normally these cells help to heal wounds, but when improperly activated a fibrocyte can cause fibers to grow in otherwise healthy cells.

In 2006, the FDA alerted doctors that use of gadolinium-based contrast agents may not be appropriate for patients with kidney disease. However, this warning came too late for hundreds of patients suffering from NSF.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with NSF, you have a right to seek accountability from the drug companies that caused the condition. To learn more about Nephrogenic systemic fibrosis lawsuits, contact the Wisconsin pharmaceutical injury lawyers at Hupy and Abraham at 800-800-5678.