To be clear right off the bat, MRIs are extremely safe procedures, so there's nothing to be too worried about. However, like other medical procedures, there are still precautions and preparations to take into consideration... just to be safe.
The MRI system will attract iron-containing objects, causing them to move quickly with great force, like a big, strong magnet. This of course can be a possible risk or danger to a patient or anyone in the scanning area if some object flies across the room or machine. Therefore, great caution should be taken to be sure that none of those iron-containing (or ferromagnetic) objects are in the MRI scanning area. Here are a few things to keep in mind when preparing for your scan:
1. Remove Metallic Belongings
As a patient, it is vital that you remove all metallic belongings in advance of an MRI exam, including hearing aids, watches, jewelry, and items of clothing that have metallic threads or fasteners. Additionally, makeup, nail polish, or other cosmetics that may contain metallic particles should be removed if applied to the area of the body undergoing the MRI examination. a metallic implant or other object may cause signal loss or distort the MR images. This may be unavoidable, but if the radiologist knows about it, allowances can be made when obtaining and interpreting the MRI images.
2. Ask About Cardiovascular Device
Only some cardiovascular devices (pacemakers) are approved for magnetic resonance imaging. Make sure you tell your radiology technologist if you have one. The magnetic field of the MRI system may also damage an external hearing aid or cause a heart pacemaker, electrical stimulator, or neurostimulator to malfunction or cause patient injury. If you have a bullet or any other metallic fragment in your body, there is a potential risk that it could change position and possibly cause an injury.
3. Don’t Move Too Much
This one is not necessarily just a safety issue, but also a technical issue. Movements could cause the scanner to read your body wrong. If you need to cough or sneeze, make sure you let your technologist know. Sudden movements can make the process take even longer.
4. Inform the Doctor If You’re Pregnant
If you are pregnant or suspect you are pregnant, you should inform the MRI technologist and/or radiologist during the screening procedure before the MRI examination. In general, there is no known risk of using MRI in pregnant patients. However, MRI is reserved for use in pregnant patients only to address very important problems or suspected abnormalities just as a safety measure. In any case, MRI is safer for the fetus than imaging with x-rays or computed tomography (CT). Furthermore, you should inform your radiologist if you are breast-feeding at the time of a scheduled MRI study if you may need to receive a contrast agent.
Thankfully, radiologists and their technologists are more than aware of these procedures and it's their job to do everything they can to keep patients safe. If you have any other questions about MRI's or preparation for your imaging procedure, don’t be afraid to contact us or your doctor. So remember, take off any metal and stay still!