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Consider using a hospital?s new MRI safety steps


April 1, 2010

Tip of the month

Consider using a hospital’s new MRI safety steps

We’ve written in the past about the risks of bringing metallic and ferromagnetic objects into MRI suites. 

The magnet at the heart of an MRI scanner is powerful enough to drag metallic objects into the cylinder, which could injure or even kill patients.

In light of a heavy fine against a medical center in California, safety committees should double-check their facilities’ processes for ensuring that only appropriate items are being brought into MRI scanner suites.


$50K penalty issued by authorities

In January, California’s Department of Public Health announced a $50,000 fine against Hoag Memorial Hospital in Newport Beach after an MRI patient was injured when the metal gurney-chair she was on was pulled into the scanner by the machine’s magnet, seriously injuring the patient’s leg, according to state records.

Radiology managers told investigators that the MRI technologist was on the phone scheduling appointments at the time the victim was brought to the suite. 

Staff accompanying the patient failed to notify the technologist, which was a violation of hospital policy that such patients be screened by technologists before entering the scanner room, according to the state.


Hospital reacts with further safeguards

The incident in question took place in January 2009, and since then, the hospital has taken the following corrective actions as noted by the state:

  • MRI staff members have received refresher education about what items may not be brought into the suite 
  • A camera was installed at the MRI entrance door so that the console technologist can better monitor who is entering the area 
  • An MRI time-out process was established, during which the MRI technologist verifies that ferromagnetic items are not entering the scanner room 


You may want to consider these steps in your facility even if you’ve never had any MRI incidents, given the serious consequences of an accident.

You can also review The Joint Commission’s recommendations about MRI safety in its 2008 Sentinel Event Alert on the topic. Go to www.jointcommission.org/sentinelevents.

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