There is a cardinal rule that patients hear as they prepare for an MRI: they cannot have any metal accessories on their body during the scan. That means anything from buttons and belts to retainers and piercings. Certain metal implants inside bodies, like pacemakers, are also unsafe for MRIs, unless otherwise stated in a manufacturer’s safety information card patients must present.
This is because an MRI, as its name suggests, uses a very powerful magnetic field to produce images of the body. Accessories interfere with that magnetic field and distort the scan. The magnetic force can also rip metal items off a patient’s body, wounding them.
A hidden hazard
Far less obvious than belts and buckles, the metallic fibers in cloth materials also pose dangers during an MRI. They have been known to spark and catch fire within the machine.
In an incident reported by the Radiology journal, a 61-year-old patient’s blanket started smoldering during her procedure. The patient – who already suffered from a chronic loss of smell – did not sense the burning odor. She escaped harm because the machine’s strap protected her from touching the burning material.
The Global News documented another case where a patient felt a burning sensation in her legs during her MRI scan. She pressed the machine’s emergency button, and later found out that the yoga pants she had been wearing had silver threading.
How can this risk be avoided?
At the first hospital, copper fibers in the blanket were found out to be the culprit. A systematic inspection of all blankets at the facility revealed it was a newer product; older blankets did not have the same materials.
The second patient’s yoga pants are similarly interesting. Scholars pointed out that metallic fibers have been frequently used in sewing, but are now more common in athletic wear.
These incidents not only underscore the importance of scanning for metal before MRI exams; they also suggest that radiology facilities revise their guidelines for what fabrics go inside the MRI machine.
MRI safety reminder: cloth can be a fire hazard, RadiologyBusiness.com
Why some clothes could pose a safety hazard during MRI exams, GlobalNews.ca