14 Best Practices for MRI Safety in Hospitals

14 Best Practices for MRI Safety in Hospitals

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a vital diagnostic tool used in modern medicine to visualize internal structures of the body in great detail. However, the powerful magnetic fields generated by MRI systems can pose significant safety risks if not properly managed. To ensure a safe environment, hospitals must adopt and adhere to strict safety protocols. Here are fourteen best practices to maintain MRI safety in hospitals.

Train All Personnel

To maintain a safe MRI environment, it is crucial that all personnel with access to the MR scanner receive comprehensive training. This includes hospital staff, referring physicians, healthcare professionals, housekeeping, security personnel, as well as local police and firefighters. Each group needs to understand the specific risks associated with the MRI environment and the protocols required to mitigate these risks. Comprehensive training helps prevent accidents involving ferromagnetic objects, which can cause severe injury if they come into contact with the MRI’s magnetic field.

Training should cover the basics of how MRI machines operate, the dangers posed by ferromagnetic materials, and the steps that need to be taken to ensure safety. Regular refresher courses should also be conducted to keep all personnel up to date with the latest safety practices and technological advancements.

Conduct Thorough Screening

Before entering Zone IV, the MRI scanning area, all patients, family members, and healthcare personnel must be thoroughly screened for metal objects. This screening should be conducted by at least two individuals, one of whom should be a Level 2 MR personnel. This step is essential to prevent ferromagnetic objects from becoming dangerous projectiles.

Screening procedures should include the use of metal detectors and detailed questionnaires to identify any potential risks. Patients should be informed about the importance of removing all metal items, including jewelry, piercings, and clothing with metallic components. Additionally, any medical implants or devices should be assessed for MRI compatibility.

Keep the Magnet On

The MRI scanner is designed to operate continuously with the magnet on. The patient lies on a table that slides into the scanner, and a technologist monitors the scan from another room. Patients who are afraid of enclosed spaces may receive medication to help them relax. Continuous operation of the magnet helps maintain the scanner’s stability and safety.

Instructing patients about the importance of remaining still during the scan is crucial for obtaining clear images. This can be challenging for some individuals, especially those with claustrophobia. Providing a calm and supportive environment, along with the option of mild sedation if necessary, can help alleviate anxiety and ensure patient compliance.

Keep Metal Objects Out of the Scan Room

The powerful magnetic field of the MRI scanner can attract any ferromagnetic objects that enter the scanning zone, causing them to move suddenly and with great force. This can damage the scanner or harm medical professionals and patients who are in their path. Patients must remove any metal objects, body piercings, or jewelry before entering the scan room. Additionally, individuals with medical implants should inform their doctor, as certain implants can pose risks during an MRI scan.

Hospitals should establish strict protocols for the removal of all metallic objects from patients and staff before entering the MRI suite. Clear communication and signage can help reinforce these protocols. It is also advisable to have lockers or secure storage areas where patients can safely store their personal belongings during the scan.

Keep Patients Cool

Patients must lie very still during an MRI scan to obtain high-quality images. Individuals who are unable to remain still due to claustrophobia or other reasons may need to be sedated or anesthetized. Both of these options come with their own set of risks that should be discussed with the patient by the radiologist and/or nurse in advance. Additionally, medical implants and other devices containing ferromagnetic materials can move or become dislodged during an MRI exam, potentially causing serious injury.

The MRI environment can also become quite warm due to the use of radiofrequency pulses. To keep patients comfortable, the MRI suite should be well-ventilated and temperature-controlled. Providing light blankets can help keep patients warm without overheating them, and cooling measures should be available if needed.

Keep the Scan Room Clean

Keeping the scan room clean is important because it helps reduce the risk of damage to patients and the equipment. It also makes it easier for staff to work safely in the scanner. Dust and debris can interfere with the scanner’s function, so regular cleaning and maintenance are essential.

Regular cleaning protocols should be established, including wiping down surfaces, vacuuming the floors, and ensuring that the air filters are clean and functioning properly. It is also important to check for any potential contaminants that could affect the imaging quality or pose a risk to patients and staff.

Keep Noise Levels to a Minimum

Magnetic resonance imaging can produce high noise levels, which can be uncomfortable for patients and interfere with some electronic devices like cardiac pacemakers. Hospitals should offer ear protection to all patients and accompanying family members who enter the MRI room. Well-fitting earplugs or earmuffs can typically reduce acoustic noise exposure to below permissible limits and should be provided along with instructions on how to use them.

Noise-canceling headphones or music can also be offered to patients to help them relax during the scan. Providing a calm and soothing environment can significantly enhance the patient experience and reduce anxiety associated with the procedure.

Ensure Emergency Preparedness

The MR medical director for safety (MRMD) and MR safety officer (MRSO) must ensure that emergency response equipment and supplies are readily available within the MRI suite, similar to how it’s done when having a Breast MRI at Biomed Scan. They must also ensure that a qualified individual is present to provide basic life support or administer sedation or anesthesia in case of an emergency. Proper emergency preparedness can prevent accidents and improve patient safety.

Emergency drills should be conducted regularly to ensure that all staff members are familiar with the emergency procedures and can respond quickly and effectively in the event of an incident. This includes knowing how to safely shut down the MRI system and evacuate the area if necessary.

Regularly Inspect Equipment

Regular inspections and maintenance of MRI equipment are crucial for ensuring safety and functionality. This includes checking for any wear and tear, ensuring that the equipment is clean, and verifying that all safety protocols are being followed. Regular maintenance helps prevent unexpected equipment failures and ensures that the MRI scanner operates safely.

Hospitals should have a schedule for routine maintenance checks and should keep detailed records of all inspections and repairs. This helps identify any potential issues early and ensures that the equipment is always in optimal working condition.

Implement Clear Signage

Clear signage indicating the presence of a magnetic field and potential hazards should be placed around the MRI suite. This helps inform patients, visitors, and staff of the risks and the importance of following safety protocols. Effective signage can prevent accidental entry into the MRI zone by unauthorized individuals.

Signs should be prominently displayed and easy to understand, with clear instructions on what actions to take to ensure safety. Visual aids, such as diagrams and symbols, can also be helpful in conveying important safety information.

Control Access to the MRI Suite

Access to the MRI suite should be controlled to prevent unauthorized entry. This includes using restricted access doors and requiring safety training for anyone entering the scanning zone. Visitors, such as family members and healthcare staff, should take a safety course and earn a yellow badge before entering the MRI suite.

Implementing an access control system can help monitor and restrict entry to the MRI suite. This system can include key cards, biometric scanners, or other security measures to ensure that only authorized personnel can access the area.

Provide Patient Education

Educating patients about MRI safety is essential. This includes informing them about the risks associated with ferromagnetic objects, the importance of remaining still during the scan, and what to expect during the procedure. Clear communication can help alleviate patient anxiety and improve cooperation during the scan.

Hospitals should provide written materials and verbal instructions to patients before their MRI appointment. These materials should cover all aspects of the procedure, including pre-scan preparations, safety precautions, and post-scan care. Providing this information in multiple languages can also help ensure that all patients understand the instructions.

Use Non-Ferromagnetic Tools

All tools and equipment used in the MRI suite should be non-ferromagnetic to prevent them from becoming dangerous projectiles. This includes ensuring that any devices or instruments brought into the scanning area are MRI-safe. Using non-ferromagnetic tools helps maintain a safe environment for both patients and staff.

Regular checks should be conducted to verify that all equipment in the MRI suite is non-ferromagnetic. This includes not only medical instruments but also furniture, fixtures, and personal items brought into the room. Any items that do not meet safety standards should be removed immediately.

Hold Regular Safety Meetings

Regular safety meetings should be held to review and update MRI safety protocols. These meetings can include discussions on new procedures, guest speakers, and educational opportunities for staff. Keeping staff informed about the latest safety practices ensures that everyone is aware of potential risks and how to mitigate them.

These meetings should be documented, and attendance should be recorded to ensure that all relevant personnel are up to date with the latest safety protocols. Feedback from staff should be encouraged to continuously improve the safety procedures and address any concerns or suggestions.

By following these best practices, hospitals can ensure a safer environment for patients, healthcare professionals, and visitors in the MRI suite. Comprehensive training, thorough screening, and strict adherence to safety protocols are essential for maintaining MRI safety and preventing accidents. Adopting these measures will help mitigate risks, enhance patient care, and uphold the highest standards of safety in MRI facilities.

Tom Faraday