Understanding Medical Problems

Preventing Injuries When Undergoing An MRI Scan

Recent news reports about a man who was killed after being "sucked into" an MRI machine have raised concerns about the safety of this diagnostic equipment, but these accidents are extraordinarily rare and unlikely to happen under the U.S.'s stringent patient safety laws. However, it's important to make yourself aware of the potential risks of this procedure so that you can minimize the odds of any complications or injuries. Read on for some safety tips and tricks when undergoing an MRI scan.

Remove all metal 

The "M" in MRI stands for magnetic, so it's extremely important to remove any metal jewelry (including body piercings) and accessories like watches, glasses, and hearing aids before you even enter the room in which the MRI is housed. Hospital or clinic staff will likely double- and even triple-check you before turning the MRI on to ensure that there are no stray pieces of metal that could cause injury.  

Metal implants like artificial joints are made from non-magnetic metals, so it's usually safe to undergo an MRI even if you have some internal metal, but check with your doctor to make sure. 

Notify technicians of any changes in your health

Although you'll likely complete a lengthy intake form before you have an MRI, it's always important to let hospital staff know of any changes in your health or treatments you've recently had. For example, having an MRI after you've had a pacemaker implanted could have some seriously adverse consequences. Even something as easy-to-forget as an intrauterine device (IUD) could impact the way your MRI is performed. By ensuring your treatment staff is up-to-date on your health history, you'll be able to minimize the risk of any complications.

Be mindful of issues that could complicate the process

By that same token, if you have a mental health condition that makes confinement in small spaces a problem, you may want to discuss some alternatives with your doctor. Having a panic attack during your scan or vomiting inside the machine could affect the way the results are recorded, requiring doctors to perform the procedure again (and likely bill your insurance company again) to get a more accurate picture. 

It may instead be possible for you to be sedated during your MRI imaging or to use a smaller machine that won't be as physically constrictive so that you'll be able to get through the procedure with minimal physical and mental discomfort.