Technology nowadays is absolutely amazing. It allows us to capture clear images of your child’s organs and discover new diagnoses faster than ever, which enables treatments to begin earlier and earlier. This same technology also gives us many platforms and resources to investigate these diagnoses and treatments before receiving any sort of medical intervention, which can be a blessing or a curse depending on where the information originates. Between Google, Wikipedia, and the Children’s Radiology Blog you can find most answers to your sought-after questions, but you may also run into some misinformation as well. One of our responsibilities here at Cincinnati Children’s is to clarify any myths and to ensure you are receiving the correct education. To clear up some of the most common questions, I am here to bust a few myths about MRI.
Q: Is there any ionizing (potentially damaging) radiation in MRI?
A: Contrary to popular belief, there is absolutely no ionizing radiation in MRI. Unlike x-ray, CT and interventional radiology, MRI uses magnetic fields and radiofrequencies to acquire the images. In fact, MRI is so gentle that we often perform fetal MRIs on unborn babies in the womb of the mother, with the confidence that the child is completely safe. As technology grows and the field of MRI pushes further towards higher image quality, we (the MRI community) continue to test the effects MRI has on patients; to ensure unconditional safety.
Q: Is the MRI magnetic field still active if the machine is not acquiring pictures (making noise)?
A: Yes, the magnetic fields (here at Children’s) are always on for all scanners. Due to the physics of an MRI machine, the magnetic field is always going to be active; therefore, to be certain of safety, we do not allow anyone into the scanner who has not been properly screened. This is kind of a difficult concept to understand because you cannot physically see the working field, so we have posted a multitude of signs indicating the active field and welcome any questions you may have about safety. No question is inappropriate when it comes to safety, so please feel free to ask your technologist about any potential worries you may have during your child’s exam.
Q: Are all metallic items attracted to the magnetic field?
A: No, not every type of metal has the same reaction in a magnetic field. If an item is considered ferrous (has iron in its compound), then it will be attracted to the field, which is always activated. Common metals such as gold, silver and platinum are called non-ferrous metals (has absolutely no iron in its make-up) and can safely enter the field. A lot of implanted items nowadays are created from titanium or surgical stainless steel, which are also non-ferrous and safe for an MRI. Ultimately, if there are any hesitations about MRI compatible items, please ask your technologist and he or she will investigate into the adequate safety measures that must be taken.
Although we only managed to cover a few of the many false myths on MRI, hopefully this information will allow you to relax and enjoy your MRI experience a little more. Finally, never hesitate to question your MRI technologist because our number one priority is the safety of you and your child.