MRI Safety Week 2017: 24 to 30 July

MRI Safety Week was founded several years ago to celebrate and promote excellence in MRI safety, and always occurs around 27 July. This is the anniversary of the tragic 2001 MRI death of young Michael Colombini, age 6, who died when a portable steel oxygen cylinder was brought into the MRI room during his exam in a hospital in America. The 2017 observance marks the 16 year anniverary of this preventable accident.

We have two scanners here at the RJAH: a 1.5 Tesla and a 3 Tesla magnet which we operate seven-days-a-week and run for 12 hours on three of those days.

We operate a Radiologist led on-call service outside of the core hours 365 days a year. We produce approximately 14,000 scans a year.

THE SCANNER IS NEVER SWITCHED OFF! The magnetic field is always operational. The magnetic field is 30,000 times stronger than the earth’s magnetic field; this gives the potential for any magnetic object from the size of an earring to a bed or chair to become a missile. The consequence of this happening can be catastrophic.

Non-mobile patients have to be transferred from their own bed or chair to special non-magnetic ones to enable them to be taken into the scanning room, crutches and walking aids can’t be used.

Frequently asked questions:

Q: I have a hip/knee replacement, can I have a scan?

A: Yes, as long as it has been present over 6 weeks to allow ‘bedding’ in from scar tissue.

Q:-I have a pace-maker/ aneurysm clips, can I have a scan?

A:-No, at the RJAH we don’t take the risk, some neuro-centres will scan patients with MRI compatible pacemakers, or aneurysm clips.

Q:-Why do I have to change into a hospital gown; I’m only having my finger scanned?

 A: As the whole of your body will be within the magnetic field, we need to ensure that there is no metal on your body which may cause a burn e.g. Clips on a bra, zips on trousers, watches, jewellery, fit-bits, hair-grips, piercings.

Q:- I had some small bits of metal go into my eyes, but it was 40 years ago, why are you concerned?

A:There have been cases of patients being blinded inside MRI scanners, so we need to be certain that won’t happen here. If a patient has had a penetrating injury to their eye which has necessitated them attending a hospital/GP to have it picked out then in the absence of a previous MRI/ x-ray of the eyes we will perform an orbital x-ray and check it prior to scanning a patient. If it has been washed out then the patient is deemed clear to have a scan

Q: I have cochlear implants can I have a scan?

A: No- these are contraindicated for MRI scanning.

Q: I have had a heart by-pass and stents fitted- can I have a scan?

A: Many stents and shunts are fine to be scanned, however we often need to know the make and model so that we can be 100% certain of the patient’s safety.