Growing global evidence indicates that MRI safety, performance and wellbeing are at risk from inadequate safety protocols, lack of training, poor operational systems, and physical and socio-cultural factors. The main cause of harm to patients is injury due to burns. In addition, patients, staff and visitors are being injured – and in some circumstances, killed – by ferromagnetic objects and implant disturbance.
Such preventable harm is not helped by evidence of MRI incident recording being grossly under-reported; an estimated 1-10% of MRI incidents are never reported.
Most clinical MRI scanners are over 30,000 times stronger than the earth’s magnetic field. A common assumption is that the main danger comes from the ‘missile effect’; where ferromagnetic objects, such as oxygen cylinders, or smaller items, such as scissors or pens, can kill or severely injure anyone in their path towards the magnet.
Even though such events seem to occur regularly, the majority of injuries (70%) are estimated to arise from burns, with 10% of injuries due to the missile effect and 20% collectively due to implant disturbance, quench, fire, acoustic concerns and internal heating effects. There may be hundreds, if not thousands, of unreported MRI safety incidents currently occurring across the NHS.