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MR scan burns patient with facemask, FDA issues warning

by John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | December 09, 2020
The FDA is warning against wearing face masks with metal after a patient was burned while donning one during an MR exam
A patient suffered burns to their face during an MR exam because of the metal content in their face mask. Now, the FDA is warning patients to ditch these types of masks when undergoing MR scans.

“Do not wear a face mask containing metal parts, like a bendable nose piece or staples on the headband, nanoparticles, or antimicrobial coating that may contain metal, when having an MR. You may not be able to tell whether your mask [has] metal in it. Ask the person performing the MR to confirm that the face mask you will wear does not contain metal parts,” said the agency in a statement.

Metals in masks can cause radio-frequency-induced heating during an MR exam, creating a hazard and burning patients. The patient in the incident suffered burns consistent with the shape of their mask during a 3T MR scan of the neck, according to the injury report.
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With burns already a potential adverse event during MR scanning, the FDA is warning patients and providers to be aware of the potential risks posed by masks that contain metal. It notes that many people may not be able to determine if a face mask has metal in it.

“If the absence of metal cannot be confirmed and it is determined to be appropriate for the patient to wear a face mask, an alternative face mask where the absence of metal can be confirmed should be used,” said the agency. “Health care providers who perform MR exams are encouraged to provide face masks without metal to patients who will undergo an MR.”

The American College of Radiology agrees and has posted a warning of its own on its website. "If there is a metal strip in the surgical mask in-patients should be fitted with known MR-safe masks or respirators prior to coming to the radiology department. Alternatively, when this is not possible, metallic components from a face mask should be removed prior to, or when necessary, upon the patient's arrival at the MR suite. Tape may be applied across the bridge of the nose section of the mask after removing the metal strip if the site feels that this would be sufficient for adequate fomite control and to maintain the intended function of the mask."

Patients and providers are encouraged to report incidents involving face mask burns to the FDA.

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