MRI Safety with Shunts: Essential Information for Patients

Kaylee Everhart

Updated Wednesday, June 12, 2024 at 4:09 AM CDT

MRI Safety with Shunts: Essential Information for Patients

Understanding MRI Compatibility with Shunts

Many shunts are MRI compatible, but it's crucial to confirm with the imaging facility before scheduling your scan. This step is essential to ensure that the specific type of shunt you have will not pose any risks during the MRI procedure. Presenting an implant card at the imaging facility can help determine if the shunt is MR conditional. This card contains vital information about the shunt, including its model and settings, which aids technicians in making informed decisions.

If the shunt is not MR compatible, alternative tests like a CT scan may be required. These alternatives provide similar diagnostic capabilities without the risks associated with MRI for non-compatible shunts. MRI technicians conduct a thorough screening process to ensure patient safety before scanning, and informing them about the shunt is essential for taking appropriate steps.

Pre-MRI Preparations and Safety Measures

Some shunts have a circular dial in the head that can be visualized and noted via a skull x-ray. This dial is crucial as it can indicate the current setting of the shunt, which might be altered by the MRI's magnetic field. The MRI may alter the setting of the shunt, necessitating a post-MRI adjustment. After the MRI, another skull x-ray is often taken to check the new position of the shunt dial.

The shunt dial can be adjusted externally using a magnet after the MRI. This adjustment ensures that the shunt is functioning correctly and set to the proper setting. A final skull x-ray confirms the shunt is set to the correct setting following the adjustment. Consulting with the ordering doctor about the shunt and MRI is advisable to ensure all necessary precautions are taken.

The Role of Neurosurgery Practices

Neurosurgery practices frequently handle shunts and MRIs, ensuring the shunt's settings are correct before and after the scan. Establishing care with a neurosurgeon beforehand can help determine the current shunt setting. Reliable documentation of the shunt's most recent setting is beneficial for both the patient and the medical team.

Certain shunt models, like Codman Certas or Medtronic, are easier to manage during an MRI. Understanding the specifics of the shunt and MRI compatibility is crucial for patient safety. Patients should advocate for themselves by understanding their implants and asking questions to their healthcare providers.

Research and Findings on Shunt Safety in MRI

A study found that the magnetic field interactions of a programmable CSF shunt valve were not excessive in an MRI. This research provides reassurance that, under controlled conditions, the MRI does not pose significant risks to the shunt's functionality. MRI-related heating of the shunt valve was at a safe level, posing no hazard to the patient, further supporting the safety of MRIs with certain shunts.

Although the shunt valve caused artifacts in MRI images, it was not damaged or functionally affected by the MRI. These findings highlight the importance of understanding the specific shunt model and its interaction with MRI procedures. By staying informed and consulting with medical professionals, patients can safely undergo MRI scans without compromising their health.

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