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Advisory Issued About Problems With MRI Safety

A recent report by the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority (PAPSA) showed that MRI screening practices are placing many patients in danger of injuries. The agency reviewed 1,108 screenings from which about 25% were potentially unsafe. These problems were largely attributed to devices or objects that patients had brought into the scanning room. Among the most common problems involved unknowingly having patients with pacemakers undergo MRIs. The PAPSA says that it is necessary to test all medical devices for potentially dangerous reactions when exposed to MRI units.

How Vehicle Injuries Occur

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has become a commonly used method of diagnostic imaging that is another option to using CT scans and nuclear imaging methods. These units use a combination of radio waves and magnetic force to generate images that can be viewed to reveal or check the current status of a condition. Objects that are ferromagnetic can potentially interact dangerously when exposed to an MRI’s magnetic field. This interaction can lead to injuries and even fatalities.

Recent Fatality Results From Negligence

A 32-year old man was recently killed at Nair Hospital after entering an MRI scanning area carrying a container of liquid oxygen. Rajesh Maru was violently pulled into the machine by an overpowering magnetic force. He had been told by medical staff that the machine was turned off. Upon striking the scanning unit, the oxygen container was damaged and Maru had fatal exposure to the liquid oxygen. The local authorities have classified the incident as an act of negligence that resulted in death.

Recommended Personnel Strategies

The Joint Commission and the American College of Radiology have compiled a list of best practices regarding staff that works with MRI equipment.

  • Facilities should have an individual who functions as an MRI safety manager or director that is responsible for complying with safety measures
  • There should be standardized safety education training for all staff involved with MRI procedures
  • This education and training should also be provided to office and administrative staff that may handle patient MRI scheduling and ordering

Recommended Screening Procedures

Patients who will be undergoing an MRI should be advised of the safety concerns. A screening process should be implemented that ensures that patients reveal the existence of any “implanted” devices. In addition, patients must have an understanding of the potential dangers of possessing non-medical objects in the screening area. Other potentially dangerous objects that should not be brought into the area include mobile devices, jewelry, hearing aids and clothing that has metal buttons or fasteners. Essentially, any personal items that are metallic may be a potential risk.

Medical Malpractice in Diagnostic Testing

Imaging equipment such as an MRI is used largely for diagnosis. These scans may reveal the existence of a disease or to “rule out” other potential conditions. Often MRI usage is needed for monitoring the status of a condition, such as whether certain medications or treatments are having any results. In today’s medical environment many providers are advised to order such diagnostic tests to reduce liability. Currently, the second most common reason for claims of medical malpractice is failures to diagnose or missed diagnosis. Radiologists are among the physicians often faced with these claims.

About the Author

Briggs Bedigian
Briggs Bedigian

H. Briggs Bedigian (“Briggs”) is a founding partner of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC.  Prior to forming Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, Briggs was a partner at Wais, Vogelstein and Bedigian, LLC, where he was the head of the firm’s litigation practice.  Briggs’ legal practice is focused on representing clients involved in medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. 


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