MRI Safety with Surgical Implants: What You Need to Know

Isla Davis

Updated Monday, June 3, 2024 at 5:58 PM CDT

MRI Safety with Surgical Implants: What You Need to Know

Understanding MRI Safety with Surgical Implants

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a crucial diagnostic tool in modern medicine, offering detailed images of the body's internal structures. However, if you have surgical implants, understanding MRI safety is essential. The vast majority of surgical implants are designed to be MRI safe, ensuring that future scans and general safety around magnets are not compromised. Hospitals have been using non-magnetic metals for surgical implants since at least the 1990s, if not earlier, to mitigate any risks associated with MRI scans.

If you have metal inside you that is not MRI compatible, alternative scans like CAT scans may be used instead. This is particularly important for individuals who had surgery more than 40 years ago, as older implants might not meet current MRI safety standards. Fortunately, medical professionals can test the metal beforehand to determine its compatibility with MRI machines.

Types of Implants and Their MRI Compatibility

Most surgical metals are MRI conditional, meaning they can be safely scanned if manufacturer guidelines are followed. Non-ferrous metals used in knee and hip replacements, for example, do not cause problems during an MRI. Harrington rods in the spine, used since the 1990s, also do not cause issues with MRI machines. Pacemakers and defibrillators have been MRI compatible for several years now, allowing patients with these devices to undergo MRI scans without concerns.

However, some aneurysm clips are unsafe for MRI, and spinal cord stimulator battery packs are not MRI compatible. Updated versions of these devices are available that can be safely scanned. Informing MRI technicians about any metal implants beforehand is crucial for safety and scan planning.

Potential Risks and Artifacts

If you have magnetic metal in you, it can heat up during an MRI; you should inform the technician immediately if you feel this. Metal in the region of interest during an MRI can cause a huge black artifact that obscures the image, affecting the quality of the MRI image if the metal is in the area being scanned. Artifacts caused by metal implants can compromise the diagnostic value of the scan, but MRI techs and X-ray techs with metal implants have safely undergone MRI scans, demonstrating that it is possible to manage these risks effectively.

MRI can snap metal objects like bras during the scan, so it is essential to remove any metal accessories before the procedure. Doctors can replace non-MRI compatible devices with MRI-safe versions if an MRI is absolutely necessary, ensuring that patients receive the imaging they need without compromising their safety.

Advancements in MRI-Compatible Implants

MRI safety protocols have been in place since the 1990s to ensure that implants are safe for scanning. These protocols have led to significant advancements in the development of MRI-compatible metals used in surgical implants. Informing MRI technicians about any metal implants beforehand is crucial for safety and scan planning, allowing them to take the necessary precautions to ensure a safe and effective MRI scan.

While MRI scans can still be performed on patients with metal implants, it is essential to be aware of the potential risks and take appropriate measures to mitigate them. By understanding the types of implants and their MRI compatibility, informing technicians about any metal implants, and following MRI safety protocols, patients can safely undergo MRI scans and receive the diagnostic imaging needed for their medical care.

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