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. RV Repair Places Near Me


    June 11, 2021 at 21:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. RV Supplies Near Me

    I blog quite often and I really thank you for your information. This great article has really peaked my interest. I'm going to book mark your blog and keep checking for new details about once per week. I subscribed to your RSS feed too.


    June 11, 2021 at 22:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Touring Van Repair


    June 11, 2021 at 22:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. remodeling rv interior

    I truly love your site.. Pleasant colors & theme. Did you develop this site yourself? Please reply back as Iím looking to create my own personal blog and would love to learn where you got this from or just what the theme is called. Many thanks!


    June 11, 2021 at 22:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Dodge Sprinter Step Repair

    There's certainly a great deal to learn about this topic. I really like all of the points you've made.


    June 11, 2021 at 22:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. rv glass repair near me


    June 11, 2021 at 22:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. RV Solar Panels Systems Riverside

    Excellent article! We are linking to this particularly great article on our website. Keep up the good writing.


    June 11, 2021 at 23:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Sprinter Van Restoration Shop

    Having read this I believed it was really enlightening. I appreciate you finding the time and effort to put this content together. I once again find myself personally spending a significant amount of time both reading and commenting. But so what, it was still worthwhile!


    June 11, 2021 at 23:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Sprinter Repair Near Me


    June 11, 2021 at 23:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. RV Camper Repair Near Me

    Spot on with this write-up, I honestly believe this site needs far more attention. Iíll probably be back again to read more, thanks for the advice!


    June 12, 2021 at 00:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. South Haven Michigan Mercedes Sprinter Repair Near Me

    When I initially commented 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 get four emails with the same comment. There has to be an easy method you are able to remove me from that service? Appreciate it!


    June 12, 2021 at 00:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. stair repair near me


    June 12, 2021 at 00:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. orange county tire


    June 12, 2021 at 01:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. RV Dent Repair Riverside


    June 12, 2021 at 01:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Rv Upholstery Shop Near Me

    Hey there! I just would like to offer you a huge thumbs up for your excellent info you have got right here on this post. I will be coming back to your blog for more soon.


    June 12, 2021 at 01:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Dry Van Floor Repair

    After looking at a number of the articles on your website, I honestly like your technique of writing a blog. I book marked it to my bookmark site list and will be checking back in the near future. Please visit my web site as well and tell me how you feel.


    June 12, 2021 at 01:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. motor home furnishings


    June 12, 2021 at 02:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Custom Paint Shop Near Me

    Oh my goodness! Incredible article dude! Thank you so much, However I am having difficulties with your RSS. I donít know the reason why I can't subscribe to it. Is there anybody having identical RSS problems? Anyone who knows the answer will you kindly respond? Thanx!!


    June 12, 2021 at 02:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. monrovia collision center


    June 12, 2021 at 06:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. RV Renovation Near Me

    Itís nearly impossible to find experienced people for this topic, however, you sound like you know what youíre talking about! Thanks


    June 12, 2021 at 06:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Luxury Sprinter Van

    This is a topic which is close to my heart... Thank you! Exactly where are your contact details though?


    June 12, 2021 at 06:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. RV Lighting California

    I like reading an article that can make people think. Also, many thanks for allowing for me to comment!


    June 12, 2021 at 07:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Pleasure Way Van Repair

    This is a topic that's near to my heart... Take care! Exactly where are your contact details though?


    June 12, 2021 at 07:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Mercedes Sprinter Service Center Near Me

    Oh my goodness! Amazing article dude! Many thanks, However I am having problems with your RSS. I donít understand why I am unable to subscribe to it. Is there anybody else getting similar RSS problems? Anybody who knows the solution will you kindly respond? Thanx!!


    June 12, 2021 at 07:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Mercedes Sprinter Repair Panels


    June 12, 2021 at 07:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Mercedes Sprinter Service Locations


    June 12, 2021 at 07:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Sprinter Van Repair Fountain Valley


    June 12, 2021 at 07:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. geico repair center


    June 12, 2021 at 08:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. nearest rv store

    I used to be able to find good advice from your articles.


    June 12, 2021 at 08:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. RV Headlights Near Me

    I love it whenever people come together and share views. Great blog, continue the good work!


    June 12, 2021 at 09:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Rv Maintenance


    June 12, 2021 at 09:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Dodge Sprinter Repair


    June 12, 2021 at 10:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. RV Cabinet Orange County


    June 12, 2021 at 10:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Chevrolet High Top Van Repair Shop Near Me


    June 12, 2021 at 10:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. riverside collision provo

    Excellent article. I absolutely love this website. Keep it up!


    June 12, 2021 at 10:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Dodge Sprinter Fuel Injector Repair

    Greetings! Very helpful advice in this particular article! It is the little changes that will make the biggest changes. Thanks a lot for sharing!


    June 12, 2021 at 10:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Mercedes Sprinter Authorized Repair Center


    June 12, 2021 at 10:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Mercedes Sprinter Service

    Pretty! This has been an incredibly wonderful post. Thank you for providing these details.


    June 12, 2021 at 11:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. ZisseVed

    generic cialis at walgreens does cialis work with alcohol does the va approve cialis for patients

    June 12, 2021 at 11:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. MileSwa

    cialis 36 hour online generic cialis india cialis coupons

    June 12, 2021 at 13:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. food places near me

    This is the right site for everyone who hopes to understand this topic. You realize so much its almost tough to argue with you (not that I actually would want toÖHaHa). You certainly put a fresh spin on a topic that's been discussed for ages. Excellent stuff, just excellent!


    June 12, 2021 at 14:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. jeep dealer near me

    You're so awesome! I don't think I've truly read through something like this before. So good to discover someone with a few original thoughts on this subject matter. Seriously.. many thanks for starting this up. This site is one thing that is needed on the web, someone with a bit of originality!


    June 12, 2021 at 14:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. covid rapid test near me

    Pretty! This has been a really wonderful post. Many thanks for providing this info.


    June 12, 2021 at 14:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. rental car near me

    Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I appreciate you writing this write-up and the rest of the website is also really good.


    June 12, 2021 at 14:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. tattoo near me

    I'd like to thank you for the efforts you've put in penning this website. I'm hoping to view the same high-grade content from you in the future as well. In fact, your creative writing abilities has inspired me to get my own, personal website now 😉


    June 12, 2021 at 15:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. chevy dealer near me

    You should be a part of a contest for one of the greatest sites on the web. I will recommend this blog!


    June 12, 2021 at 15:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. homedepot near me

    I needed to thank you for this good read!! I certainly enjoyed every bit of it. I have you bookmarked to look at new stuff you postÖ


    June 12, 2021 at 15:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. furniture stores near me


    June 12, 2021 at 15:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. spectrum near me


    June 12, 2021 at 16:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. obgyn near me


    June 12, 2021 at 16:31 | 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

Leave a Reply to Cupids Health


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.