- 70 percent of MRI complications are related to thermal burns.
- The primary cause of radiofrequency (RF) burns in patients undergoing MRI who are not wearing conductive devices is excessive power deposition
- Because the safe power numbers are overestimated, hot regions are often times created deep inside the patient’s body like a microwave oven, which makes it harder for the patient to feel and for the technologists and clinicians to detect before it’s too late.
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Pennsylvania MRI Burn Injury Attorneys
Recent estimates indicate that more than 10 million MRI examinations are performed in the United States each year. Although considered safe, MRI examinations are not without significant risk of injury to the patient. In particular, an MRI exam can cause burns requiring painful skin grafts.
MRI produces images through magnetic waves
Unlike an x-ray or a CT scan that exposes the patient to radiation, an MRI unit produces images through the use of magnetic waves. MRI exams are typically performed on the soft tissues of the body, such as the brain, the heart, internal organs, and the spinal cord.
Some patients are at a higher risk for burn than others
The MRI unit, which is essentially a large magnet, has a magnetic force that is at least 10,000 times the strength of the Earth’s magnetic force. As MRI technology has evolved, the magnetic force of MRI units has become more and more powerful, thereby placing the patient at a greater risk for a burn injury. The MRI unit, like other magnets, magnetically attracts ferrous metallic objects. For example, patients with implantable wires from a pacemaker or defibrillator unit, a brain aneurysm clip, a cochlear implant, certain types of coronary artery stents, and various types of artificial joints are at a significantly increased risk for a thermal or burn injury when undergoing an MRI. Also, patients with older tattoos that are dark in color have an increased risk of a burn injury due to iron oxide within the dye.
Careful screening must be done on patients before an MRI
Although multiple theories exist as to how an MRI unit can cause a thermal injury, one theory is that the MRI’s magnetic force causes heat conduction in medical products or devices that contain ferrous magnetic metal. As a result, careful screening must be performed before patients undergo an MRI to prevent a burn injury.
Second and third-degree burns from MRI
In addition to burn injuries caused by heat conduction, there are reported cases of patients suffering rather extensive second and third-degree burns from direct skin contact with the MRI unit’s radiofrequency (RF) coils. This injury most commonly occurs with larger patients or patients who are sedated for purposes of undergoing an MRI and cannot feel his or her skin being burned. MRI burn injuries, whether from heat conduction or direct skin contact can be extremely serious. There are numerous reports of painful first and second-degree burn injuries.
Amputation caused by third-degree burns
Additionally, in some cases, patients have suffered third-degree burns, requiring painful skin grafting. In one reported case, an infant required the amputation of her right arm when she suffered a third-degree burn after being placed into the MRI unit with a pulse oximeter with exposed wiring. Other recently reported burn cases involve pediatric patients who have been placed into a warming blanket that contains aluminum while undergoing an MRI.
MRI burn injuries are preventable
MRI burn injuries are preventable by proper patient screening for the presence of ferrous magnetic materials and careful patient positioning within the MRI unit.
Contact our lawyers today for a free consultation
If you or a loved one has suffered a burn injury while undergoing an MRI examination, contact our law firm for a free consultation with one of our MRI burn injury lawyers via email or call us at 855-90-4INJURY to schedule your free initial consultation.