October 26th, 2011
06:01 PM ET

Don't get hurt by an MRI

MRI machines allow doctors to see inside your body and diagnose what’s wrong with you, but if mistakes are made, they can hurt or even kill you.

“If administered properly, it’s one of the safest exams that have ever been invented,” says Tobias Gilk, an MRI safety advocate.

But accidents do happen.

“Most errors are a combination of human error and bad timing,” says Dr. Emanuel Kanal, a professor of radiology and neuroradiology at the University of Pittsburgh. Faulty training and lax rules about who can be around the machine also contribute.

There are four main ways MRI machines can pose dangers.

The M in MRI stands for magnetic, and  magnets are very powerful.

Gilk’s website, mrimetaldetector.com, shows photos of metal objects, including a bed, a floor polisher and a chair forced against the MRI machine.

If someone is being scanned when these devices fly into a machine, they could face serious injuries. A child in New York was killed in 2001 when the MRI machine sucked an oxygen canister into the machine where he was being scanned.

“Projectiles usually happen when there are breakdowns in policies and procedures and proper training wasn’t performed,” says Frank Shellock, an adjunct clinical professor of radiology and medicine at the University of Southern California. He points out that MRI magnets don’t just turn on when they are scanning. They are always energized and there is no visual cue the magnetic field is present. Newer MRI machines can be even more powerful.

MRIs use RF transmitters and those can cause heat. “Burns happen, usually because a patient wasn’t prepared properly,” Shellock says. “Usually this is related to misuse of equipment.”

“Generally it is supposed to be gentle, like a heat lamp,” says Gilk. “If there are electrical conductors like an EKG lead (on the body) it becomes an antenna and can pick up the RF and concentrate it.”

Touching the side walls of the MRI tunnel can also lead to burns, Shellock says. MRI operators should put material between the patient and the wall if there is a risk of the patient coming in contact with it. Some burns have been so severe patients have required skin grafts.

Hearing loss:
MRI machines can be quite loud.

Gilk compares getting a scan to standing near a  jet aircraft. He says patients and anyone else near the machine should be given adequate earplugs or protective earphones.

“Scanner technology is improving and machines are getting quieter,” Gilk says, but “anyone in the room could get hearing loss.”

Implants and medical devices:
People with metal in their bodies, including medical devices like aneurysm clips and pacemakers, can face increased risks. The MRI’s powerful magnetic fields could move the device or cause damage.

“Most medical device manufacturer's products made in the last five years will be OK,” says Gilk. But, “if, for example, you had an aneurysm clip that is 15 years old, you should be particularly cautious.”

Shellock says he has studied 3,500 implant devices over about the last 25 years and the devices that are labeled as appropriate for use in an MRI should be fine.

In addition to the medical metal inside the human body, some patients require external devices to keep them alive or monitor their condition. Those devices need to be specifically designed to function around an MRI.

The federal government doesn’t regulate the use of MRIs and state regulations for the machines vary.

“Many states have more stringent requirements for hair colorists than who runs an MRI center,” Gilk says.

So what can patients do to make sure they are safe when they get an MRI?

1. Fill out MRI questionnaire: “Patients should fill out a screening form and ask the MRI technologist if they have questions,” Shellock says. It’s important that patients go over the questions with the technician to make sure they understand what is being asked.

Kanal says honest answers are essential. He gives the example that a patient might not want to reveal they have a wig, but it’s important for the operator to know.

Details about any metal that may be in the body, including bullets, medical devices like aneurysm clips, stents or pacemakers should also be shared with the operator.

2. Remove metal: Since magnetic metal poses such a risk in an MRI, it is essential patients and anyone near the MRI remove it.

3. Use hearing protection: Make sure you and anyone else in the room with you are given proper ear protection and make sure it fits.

4. Look for open doors: MRI facilities should be secure. Gilk says open doors could be a sign the facility isn’t as careful about access as it should be.

5. Look for wires: Make sure there are no unexpected wires or metallic objects like left over EKG sensors on your body. Some devices may be safe for an MRI, but others can be dangerous.

6. Don’t touch the side walls: Coming in contact with the inside of the MRI tube can lead to burns.

soundoff (3,781 Responses)
  1. Content Marketing Firm

    After looking at a number of the articles on your site, I honestly like your technique of blogging. I added it to my bookmark website list and will be checking back in the near future. Please check out my web site too and tell me what you think.


    May 8, 2021 at 16:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Internet Marketing Center


    May 8, 2021 at 17:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Social Media Marketing Agency Near Me

    Pretty! This has been an incredibly wonderful post. Many thanks for providing this info.


    May 8, 2021 at 17:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. RV Couches Los Angeles

    Hello, I believe your website could possibly be having web browser compatibility issues. Whenever I take a look at your site in Safari, it looks fine but when opening in IE, it's got some overlapping issues. I just wanted to provide you with a quick heads up! Apart from that, fantastic blog!


    May 8, 2021 at 18:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Internet Marketing Review

    You've made some good points there. I looked on the web to learn more about the issue and found most individuals will go along with your views on this site.


    May 8, 2021 at 18:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Video Marketing Firms

    Saved as a favorite, I like your web site!


    May 8, 2021 at 19:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Video Marketing Store

    After looking at a few of the articles on your blog, I honestly like your technique of blogging. I bookmarked it to my bookmark website list and will be checking back soon. Please check out my website as well and tell me what you think.


    May 8, 2021 at 19:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. RV Interior Designer Near Me

    This blog was... how do you say it? Relevant!! Finally I've found something which helped me. Cheers!


    May 8, 2021 at 21:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. RV Inspection Los Angeles

    Everything is very open with a clear clarification of the issues. It was truly informative. Your site is useful. Many thanks for sharing!


    May 8, 2021 at 22:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Social Media Marketing Specialists


    May 8, 2021 at 22:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Seo Marketing Business

    When I initially commented I appear to have clicked on the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now whenever a comment is added I recieve 4 emails with the same comment. Is there an easy method you can remove me from that service? Many thanks!


    May 8, 2021 at 23:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. dapoxetine

    dapoxetine pills for sale buy priligy usa

    May 8, 2021 at 23:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Local Marketing Business


    May 8, 2021 at 23:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Seo Marketing Help

    Everyone loves it when folks come together and share opinions. Great site, stick with it!


    May 8, 2021 at 23:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Digital Marketing Firms


    May 9, 2021 at 00:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Internet Marketing Agency

    Your style is so unique in comparison to other people I have read stuff from. Thanks for posting when you have the opportunity, Guess I'll just book mark this site.


    May 9, 2021 at 01:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Video Marketing Consultant


    May 9, 2021 at 02:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. RebfZisse

    buy cialis 10 tab https://rcialisgl.com/ tadalafil cialis bestprice

    May 9, 2021 at 02:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Google Marketing Consultant


    May 9, 2021 at 02:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Content Marketing Job

    Hello there! This article could not be written any better! Reading through this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He constantly kept preaching about this. I most certainly will forward this information to him. Pretty sure he'll have a good read. Many thanks for sharing!


    May 9, 2021 at 02:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. RV Windshield Riverside


    May 9, 2021 at 02:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Social Media Marketing Orange County


    May 9, 2021 at 02:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Digital Marketing Reviews

    Great web site you have got here.. It’s difficult to find quality writing like yours nowadays. I really appreciate people like you! Take care!!


    May 9, 2021 at 03:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Internet Marketing Firms


    May 9, 2021 at 03:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Herta Mckell

    The first thing to do before you look into any metal detector is to get your hands on some advice. You can either visit a shop or you can check online, looking at different metal detectors and checking out what they have to offer.


    May 9, 2021 at 04:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Google Marketing Experts

    Good article. I certainly love this site. Keep writing!


    May 9, 2021 at 04:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Internet Marketing Program

    Hey there! I simply wish to give you a huge thumbs up for the excellent information you've got right here on this post. I am coming back to your site for more soon.


    May 9, 2021 at 04:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Digital Marketing Agency

    Having read this I thought it was really informative. I appreciate you taking the time and energy to put this informative article together. I once again find myself personally spending a lot of time both reading and commenting. But so what, it was still worth it!


    May 9, 2021 at 04:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Internet Marketing Company Orange County

    Having read this I believed it was really informative. I appreciate you spending some time and effort to put this article together. I once again find myself spending way too much time both reading and leaving comments. But so what, it was still worth it!


    May 9, 2021 at 05:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Google Marketing Jobs

    Pretty! This was an incredibly wonderful article. Thank you for supplying this info.


    May 9, 2021 at 05:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. RV Leak Near Me


    May 9, 2021 at 06:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. RV Collision Repair Los Angeles

    I truly love your website.. Very nice colors & theme. Did you make this website yourself? Please reply back as I’m hoping to create my own website and want to find out where you got this from or what the theme is called. Kudos!


    May 9, 2021 at 06:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Internet Marketing Services

    There's definately a lot to learn about this issue. I love all the points you have made.


    May 9, 2021 at 07:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. RV Bedroom Near Me

    Very good article. I absolutely appreciate this website. Continue the good work!


    May 9, 2021 at 07:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Digital Marketing Service

    I’m amazed, I have to admit. Seldom do I come across a blog that’s equally educative and entertaining, and without a doubt, you have hit the nail on the head. The issue is something which not enough men and women are speaking intelligently about. I'm very happy that I stumbled across this in my hunt for something relating to this.


    May 9, 2021 at 08:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Social Media Marketing Consultant

    Your style is really unique compared to other folks I have read stuff from. Many thanks for posting when you've got the opportunity, Guess I will just book mark this page.


    May 9, 2021 at 08:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. RV Dent Repair California

    Hi, I do believe this is a great website. I stumbledupon it 😉 I may come back once again since I book marked it. Money and freedom is the greatest way to change, may you be rich and continue to guide other people.


    May 9, 2021 at 08:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Internet Marketing Store

    Everyone loves it when individuals get together and share thoughts. Great site, keep it up!


    May 9, 2021 at 09:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Digital Marketing Videos

    I'm more than happy to find this great site. I want to to thank you for your time for this particularly fantastic read!! I definitely savored every part of it and I have you bookmarked to look at new things on your web site.


    May 9, 2021 at 09:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Seo Marketing Help

    May I simply say what a comfort to discover an individual who genuinely knows what they are discussing on the net. You actually know how to bring a problem to light and make it important. More and more people must check this out and understand this side of your story. I was surprised that you are not more popular because you certainly have the gift.


    May 9, 2021 at 10:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Video Marketing Companies California

    Good day! I simply wish to offer you a big thumbs up for the excellent information you have got right here on this post. I am coming back to your web site for more soon.


    May 9, 2021 at 10:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Video Marketing Company

    The very next time I read a blog, I hope that it doesn't disappoint me as much as this one. After all, Yes, it was my choice to read through, however I really believed you would probably have something helpful to talk about. All I hear is a bunch of crying about something you could possibly fix if you were not too busy looking for attention.


    May 9, 2021 at 10:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Social Media Marketing Firms California

    When I originally left a comment I appear to have clicked on the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on every time a comment is added I receive four emails with the same comment. Perhaps there is a means you can remove me from that service? Many thanks!


    May 9, 2021 at 10:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. RV Countertops Orange County


    May 9, 2021 at 11:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Digital Marketing Help


    May 9, 2021 at 11:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. RV Bay Doors Riverside


    May 9, 2021 at 12:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Content Marketing Quotes

    Howdy! I just wish to give you a huge thumbs up for the great info you have right here on this post. I will be coming back to your web site for more soon.


    May 9, 2021 at 13:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Digital Marketing Reviews


    May 9, 2021 at 13:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Video Marketing Companies California


    May 9, 2021 at 13:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. RV Bathroom Los Angeles


    May 9, 2021 at 13:50 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.