MRI Safety Concerns

The magnet of a MRI machine is very powerful and its field usually extends to the entire MRI room. The magnetic field of a 1.5 Tesla machine is approximately 30,000 times more powerful than the earth’s magnetic field. This means that any magnetic or ferromagnetic material that is in proximity to the MRI machine will be subjected to great forces that can turn it into a deadly projectile. Loose objects like cell phones, pins and clips and keys brought into an MRI room by mistake are a hazard. Any medical equipment that enters the MRI room must be nonmagnetic in nature else it can turn into a hazard. There have been numerous instances of accidents attributed to negligence in MRI rooms. In a recent case, sheer negligence on the part of the MRI operators resulted in a non MRI safe stretcher being brought into the MRI room which led to grievous injuries.  It should be noted that even when an MRI machine is not in use, the magnet is still on. Safety guidelines must be followed always and there should be someone responsible for access control to the MRI room at all times, even in the times of emergencies.

Design of MR room

Safety begins with the design of the MR room. A well designed room with properly marked zones based on proximity to the machine must exist in the facility. Staff must be properly trained regarding dos and don’ts in zones including the type of equipment that is permitted in the room where the machine is located.

MR safety Culture

The establishment should strive to inculcate MR safe behaviour in any personnel that has access to the MR room. A designated safety officer should be present even when the MRI is not operational. MR safety training should be conducted along with regular refreshers to keep all the stakeholders on their toes at all times.

Patient and personnel guidelines

Pre scanning screening of the patient is mandatory to find out if she or he has any implants pacemakers, stents or other devices that might malfunction or cause any other problems during the procedure. This also applies to MR personnel, medical staff, visitors etc and there should be no exceptions.

MRI room rules

No one should be allowed to enter the MR environment without being checked for any metallic objects, jewellery, mobile phones etc. Individuals entering the hot zones should be scanned using a door mounted or handheld metal detector.  Any equipment should be MRI safe or MRI conditional depending to its proximity to the machine.

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Cleaning and maintenance

Anyone entering the MRI room for cleaning and maintenance purposes should not carry anything ferromagnetic that can pose a risk. Tools and equipment should not be allowed without examination. In case some major repair is to be conducted it is recommended that the MRI magnet be shut done following proper procedure.

Emergency situation guidelines

In case of emergencies, first response should be by trained people only. Emergency staff should not be allowed in the room before being scanned for MR safety. MRI safe fire extinguishers should be available in the room in case of fires. There might be a need to shut down the MRI magnet.