UW Radiology Launches First Ever Gadolinium Calculator For Public Use

Posted on March 2014

Gadolinium, a metal element, is often used as a contrast agent in Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), since it gathers in abnormal tissues and allows radiologists see uncommon cell growths more clearly. Its use is very safe and adverse reactions are rare, but Dr. Scott Reeder and colleagues at the UW Department of Radiology are taking extra steps to make sure gadolinium contrast is administered safely. To do this, they have developed a gadolinium dose calculator, available as an easy-to-use internet form that is now widely available to the public.

The calculator is the first of its kind, Dr. Reeder said. “That’s why we think it’s so useful.” Traditional gadolinium agents
all have the same formulation and weight-based dose, and UW technicians were previously using spreadsheets to calculate their proper application. However, three new gadolinium agents were recently released with differing concentrations, and radiologists needed an updated method for making sure they were giving patients the correct amount.

Dr. Reeder began by offering online tutorials on how to calculate gadolinium doses, and from that, developed the idea to create
a real-time calculator for use on the employee intranet. The employee version was a huge success, so Dr. Reeder and colleagues decided to make it available to the general public.

For senior media specialist Elizabeth Simcock, who developed the calculator’s web interface, one of the goals
was making it as user-friendly as possible. For example, some of the form’s values fill in automatically when the user selects a
specific contrast agent from the table. Another user-friendly feature is that the calculator automatically triggers a bright yellow
warning if the user’s selected dose exceeds the maximum recommended amount.

“User-friendliness is key,” Dr. Reeder said. “For example, the fonts are very large, so if you’re in a clinical setting
with the computer next to the scanner, it’s easy to see and more error-proof. We want [the calculator] optimized for the real world.”

Dr. Reeder said he hopes to obtain feedback on the calculator from colleagues, both at UW and other institutions.
For now, he knows the UW MRI technicians find it very useful. “We use it every scan,” said technician Rachel Staton, “every time.”

The calculator is publicly available at radiology.wisc.edu/fileShelf/contrastCorner/gadcalc.php