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Going for an MR scan? Leave the spandex at home

by John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | May 16, 2018
MRI
Clothes like spandex contain metallic
materials that are likely to burn patients
during MR exams
Spandex may be relaxing when posing in the downward facing dog yoga position — but for an MR exam, it's anything but.

Providers nationwide have introduced new policies in recent years that bar patients from donning standard yoga and athleisure gear in MR environments, many of which are likely to burn skin during exams due to the presence of metallic materials embedded in the garments. Some bans even extend to specific clothing brands.

“The use of metallic fibers or metallic nanoparticle treatments is becoming much more commonplace. You don’t necessarily have to see metallic flecks for it to have these electrically conductive properties and be potentially dangerous in the MR environment,” Tobias Gilk, the founder of Gilk Radiology Consultants and chairman for the board of directors at the American Board of Magnetic Resonance Safety, told HCB News. “What best practices have recommended for a number of years is to remove street clothing and provide patients with gowns and scrubs so the facility has control over what materials go into the MR and to the extent possible, eliminate what the patient may be bringing with them that they very likely don’t know.”

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Designed to prevent the buildup of odors and bacteria, yoga gear consists of tiny metal threads that are likely to move due to the electromagnetism and radio waves of an MR scanner, creating thermal energy that burns patient skin in a process similar to magnetic induction cooking.

Though infrequent, such events cause patients to suffer from first- and second-degree burns. The risk even applies to metal fibers found in certain forms of underwear and certain tattoo pigments with metallic compounds, especially substances with iron oxides, such as certain black pigments.

To prevent the onset of incidents like this, providers such as Stony Brook University’s hospitals, UCLA and Mount Sinai have put up signs in radiology rooms and redefined clothing policies that advise patients to wear other garments, like paper gowns or cotton T-shirts.

UCLA has even prohibited specific brands, for example, Lululemon, whose products are created with Silverescent technology, a fabric composed of silver-bonded threads to prevent bacteria from building up. It has also banned clothes made by the Gap, Athleta and Columbia Sportswear.

Patients themselves can help prevent the onset of adverse events by checking to see if clothing labels for words such as "antimicrobial" or "antibacterial", signs that metals comprising "silver technology" are embedded within the garments.

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