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What are the risks of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)?

Because radiation is not used, there is no risk of exposure to radiation during a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) procedure -- a diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of a large magnet, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body.

Due to the use of the strong magnet, MRI cannot be performed on patients with implanted pacemakers, some older intracranial aneurysm clips, cochlear implants, certain prosthetic devices, implanted drug infusion pumps, neurostimulators, bone-growth stimulators, certain intrauterine contraceptive devices, or any other type of iron-based metal implants. MRI is also contraindicated in the presence of some internal metallic objects such as bullets or shrapnel, as well as surgical clips, pins, plates, screws, metal sutures, or wire mesh.

If you are pregnant or suspect that you may be pregnant, you should notify your physician. Due to the potential for a harmful increase in the temperature of the amniotic fluid, MRI is not advised for pregnant patients. However, your physician may determine that the benefits of obtaining the information from the MRI outweigh the potential risks.

If contrast dye is used, there is a risk for allergic reaction to the dye. Patients who are allergic to or sensitive to medications should notify their physician. Studies show that eighty-five percent of the population will not experience an adverse reaction from iodinated contrast; however, you will need to let your physician know if you have ever had a reaction to any contrast dye, and/or any kidney problems. A reported seafood allergy is not considered to be a contraindication for iodinated contrast. If you have severe kidney disease or are on kidney dialysis, there is a risk of a condition called "nephrogenic systemic fibrosis" from the dye. You should discuss this risk with your physician prior to the test.

MRI contrast may have an effect on other conditions such as allergies, asthma, anemia, hypotension (low blood pressure), kidney disease, and sickle cell disease.

Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis (NSF) is a very rare but serious complication of MRI contrast use in patients with kidney disease or kidney failure. If you have a history of kidney disease, kidney failure, kidney transplant, liver disease or are on dialysis, you must inform the MRI technologist or radiologist prior to receiving contrast.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.