The 4 Most Common Questions About MRI Safety
If you have questions about your upcoming MRI, you aren’t alone. Most patients walk into their MRI appointment with at least a few questions in mind. MRI technologists not only run scans all day long, they also provide a lot of answers. If you ask those technologists, they’ll quickly tell you about what they hear the most. Here are the top four patient worries … plus the answers:
Question #1: Am I getting a dose of radiation from my MRI?
Patients are often confused about whether or not an MRI involves a dangerous dose of radiation. Without getting too technical and deep into the science, the short answer is: No. (Here’s a link to the FDA if you do want to dig in.) MRI=Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Unlike a CT scan – which gives you a radiation dose – the MRI machine’s radio waves and magnetic fields are producing the images of the inside of your body. Here’s the official word from the FDA:
“MRI does not use ionizing radiation (high-energy radiation that can potentially cause damage to DNA, like the X-rays used CT scans). There are no known harmful side-effects associated with temporary exposure to the strong magnetic field used by MRI scanners.” -FDA.gov
CDI Technologist Lee Tatro says the question is common. He explains to his patients that an MRI is completely safe and he spells out the difference between radio frequency and radiation:
Question #2: What about metal and my MRI?
You’ll be reminded multiple times before your MRI exam about metal. Because of the magnets involved in the imaging, metal is a no-go inside the exam room. Many patients hear that, but don’t fully understand what it means. Should I be worried about the fillings in my teeth? What about that wheelchair parked over there in the corner? As CDI Technologist Meredith Brown explains, some metals you worry about and some you don’t:
Because certain metals will attract to the magnet, when you go through your pre-exam screening, make sure to report any:
- Implantable cardioverter defibrillator’s (ICD’s)
- Cochlear ear implants
- Aneurysm clips
- Metal implants
- Body piercing
And don’t plan on taking metal objects into the scan room. Things like jewelry, watches, credit or bankcards, hairpins, clips or barrettes, wigs, hearing aids, beepers, keys or key chains, and loose pocket change need to be left at home or in a locker.
Question #3: Is the contrast you’re injecting in me really safe?
You might be injected with a contrast agent before or during your MRI. The contrast helps improve the clarity and detail of the pictures inside your body, but patients frequently have questions about this step in the procedure. CDI Technologist Melissa West reassures her patients that the contrast used in MR exams is safe and enhances the quality of the images:
Contrast is not something that stays inside you forever, permanently dying the inside of your body. Instead, it is absorbed by your body or eliminated.
Question #4: What’s up with all that noise from the MRI machine?
From a jackhammer to a submarine, patients come up with very creative ways to describe the loud noises you hear during an MRI. While all that racket may be distracting, it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with your exam, explains CDI Technologist Derek Cicchetti:
If you haven’t heard it before, here’s more than 33 minutes of an MRI for your listening pleasure. Be prepared, the noises the machine makes through your exam will change. And to protect your hearing, you’ll get both earplugs and a headset for music – which also allows the Technologist to talk to you throughout your exam. While some people are bothered by the noise, Derek says it’s not uncommon for others to find the rhythmic noise relaxing. Some people even fall asleep!
Remember, when it comes to your health, any question is a good question. Our team is here to help you get the best care possible. So before, during or after your exam, please ask whatever is on your mind.