Proper screening of patients is essential to keeping everyone safe. You should become familiar with the MRI safety policies and procedures at your site, as well as the contact information for the MRI safety officer to whom you can go to if you have questions.
Because MRI is such a safe imaging modality, some technologists may never see a patient experience an adverse event. Even so, every technologist should be aware of the potential sources of adverse events in the MR environment:
- Projectile events or device motion due to the static magnetic field
- Tinnitus or hearing loss (temporary or permanent) from loud noises the scanner makes during imaging
- Peripheral nerve stimulation (that is, a twitching sensation caused by the magnetic fields that change with time)
- Heating and/or patient burns from the radiofrequency energy. This risk is increased when objects, such as implants and other medical devices or coil cables, are present in the tunnel (bore) of the MRI scanner.
- Crush and pinch injuries from the patient table (e.g. pinching and crushing of fingers and toes)
- Falls from the patient table
With careful attention to safety procedures, these adverse events are almost entirely preventable.
The majority of patient problems reported to the FDA for MRI scanners and coils are thermal events. In partnership with the Society for Magnetic Resonance Technologists (SMRT), FDA has developed a series of educational posters on MRI safety. These posters are available for download to be used as educational tools to increase patient safety at your site.
It is the responsibility of the physician, typically the radiologist, to evaluate the benefits and risks of an MRI examination for each patient. The value of the information gained from the magnetic resonance images should be weighed against the risks of the exam for each individual patient. All medical devices (including implants, external devices and accessory devices) should be included in your assessment of the patient’s suitability for MR scanning. Remember that MR Conditional devices can only be used within the MR environment if all of the conditions for safe use are followed. Devices without any information about their safety in the MR environment (MR Safe, MR Conditional, or MR Unsafe) should be assumed to be unsafe.