An MRI is a routine, highly-valued diagnostic tool used by doctors in a variety of specialties throughout the United States, with more than 10 million procedures done each year. During an MRI, pictures of organs and structures in the body are taken in order to assist physicians in identifying internal bleeding, cancerous and benign tumors, infections, multiple sclerosis, and numerous other conditions. While typically a painless and relatively safe practice, as with any medical procedure, certain hazards exist. For instance, negligent patient screening to detect ferromagnetic (iron-containing) objects before an MRI can result in devastating and even life-threatening injuries.
Failure to Detect Metallic Objects
Failure to properly look for and detect metallic objects in the MRI suite and on the patient’s body can result in what is commonly referred to as a “Missile Effect” injury. In the unfortunate event that a metallic object is not removed from the vicinity of the MRI equipment, the magnetic force of the MRI machine, which can reach 60,000 times the force of the Earth’s magnetic field, pulls the stray metallic objects towards its core, injuring and destroying anything or anyone in its path.
Wrongful Death due to Missile Effect
Dangers associated with the “Missile Effect” injuries became publicized as a result of the tragic injuries and ultimate death of a 6-year-old boy while undergoing an MRI exam at a New York-area hospital. During the screening, the machine’s powerful magnetic field jerked a metal oxygen tank across the room, fracturing the boy’s skull. The events of this accident resulted in the formation of the Joint Commission on MRI Safety which issued a Sentinel Event Alert bringing the inherent, yet not very well-known dangers of MRI screenings, to the attention of the medical community.
The Joint Commission issued recommendations to be implemented by medical institutions in order to prevent injuries associated with MRI screenings. For example, a “four-zone” concept has been created to restrict access to MRI sites. Zone I pertains to the general public, Zone II deals with unscreened MRI patients, Zone III concerns screened patients and medical personnel, and Zone IV is applicable to MRI patients under constant direct supervision of trained MR personnel. This four zone concept restricts access to the MRI scanner, thereby limiting the possible risk of injury.
Other recommendations include using trained personnel to screen patients, not once, but twice, to decrease the likelihood of a “forgotten” or “unknown” metal object on the patient’s person, and to ensure that the MRI technologist has the patient’s complete medical history so that the patients can be scanned, safely.
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Although the efforts have been helpful in reducing these types of injuries, there are still reports of “Missile Effect” injuries every year. Given careful patient screening and the implementation of the Joint Commission’s safety recommendations, these injuries are completely preventable. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury because a metallic object was either left in the MRI suite or on your person, contact our law firm at 855-90-4INJURY for a free consultation with one of our experienced MRI injury lawyers.