Most doctors will order an MRI scan when X-rays or ultrasounds are not enough to find out what is going on inside the body. However, some patients have anxiety and panic attacks just thinking about entering the equipment because of its size, weight and noise. While MRI scans have a low risk of side effects, patients and medical facilities should always exercise caution.
In 2022, a medical technology company recalled imaging equipment because certain parts could loosen and cause the large hanging detector to fall and crush a patient. Fortunately, the manufacturer was able to detect the problem internally before anything happened.
However, due to the intensity of its magnets, even MRI machines that pass quality checks can still pose some risks to patients.
Thermal burns are the most commonly reported MRI-related injury. When a patient is attached to other external monitoring equipment that contains metal, radio frequency waves can travel through the body and cause burns where there is skin-to-skin contact. Even fabrics containing tiny quantities of metal fibers can trap heat and sweat throughout the body, causing burns when they interact with radio frequency waves.
Even when the MRI is not in use, the magnet stays on. Health care practitioners must stay aware of this as its strength can pull heavy oxygen tanks from across the room and fling them toward someone inside it. Though rare, MRI projectile accidents can cause severe injury and sometimes death.
Radiologists agree that teaching, standardizing and discussing MRI safety is essential to lower the risk of MRI-related incidents. Without proper patient supervision and adequate knowledge, the MRI technologist or radiologist could endanger a patient. An MRI equipment accident has the potential to be the basis of a malpractice claim.