To mark MRI Safety week (25 – 31 July), Darren Hudson, MRI Clinical Lead at InHealth highlights his top tips for making the MRI environment safe for both patients and staff.
He also explains how InHealth are ensuring their multidisciplinary teams get timely reminders about MRI best practice.
MRI Safety week marks the 15th anniversary of a terrible accident. Six-year old Michael Colombini was killed by a portable oxygen cylinder when it was inadvertently brought into the MR scan room of Westchester Hospital, in America. This tragedy sparked important discussions in the US around safety in MR. In the UK, the MHRA produced their first guidance in 1993  produced around the requirements and training needed to safely operate MR scanning facilities. This was last updated in 2015.
What’s the danger?
The static magnetic field in which MRI staff work is over 30,000 times stronger than the earth’s own magnetic field. It is always on, 24/7, regardless of whether scanning is being performed.
The greatest impact this can have is a missile effect on ferromagnetic items which may be
taken into the MRI scan room, causing them to be accelerated at very high speed towards the centre of the scanner. Depending on the nature and size of the object, whether it’s an earring or a wheelchair, the consequences can be very dangerous, and at worst catastrophic.
To mark the week InHealth are sending out some daily reminders to staff covering specific MR safety topics to help serve as a refresher around some keys aspects of MR safety and to raise awareness of good practice.
Key themes covered are object management and labelling, positioning of patients to prevent burns, communication with patients to ensure they alert staff to any discomfort or concerns, keeping patients cool, protecting patients from noise, best practice on how to get feedback from patients and making sure all medical devices and implants are regularly checked for safety in accordance with guidelines.
As corporate members to the BIR we are working together to raise awareness of, and share support for MR safety within the wider imaging community.
Radiographers and clinical support staff play a key role in implementing the safety framework established across MRI services, with their knowledge and experience of the procedures and policies in place helping to ensure we maintain the safety of patients, visitors and staff.
Importantly, it has been shown that the most significant MR accidents are as a result of a cascade effect from a number of apparent minor breaches of safety procedures rather than from a single mistake. It is therefore essential we all remain vigilant and adhere accurately to the safety policies and procedures. Any potential breach of procedure or near-miss is a warning and as such these instances should be reported to ensure lessons can be learnt and acted upon to avoid more serious untoward events.
Reporting of incidents and near misses is vital so that we can anticipate and prempt problems that may be arise so they can be addressed before more serious incidents may occur – today it may only be some coins, tomorrow it could be something more serious!
The human factor
Our fallibilities as human beings, both as staff and our patients, can adversely impact on MRI safety. To help promote MR safety InHealth staff are encouraged to undertake e-learning modules to highlight the hazards in MRI.
By working together and maintaining a cycle of safety procedures we can ensure that the MRI room is the safest environment it can be for both patients and staff.