Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Widespread use of MRI Units also leads to dangers

There is great concern in the medical community concerning training and supervision of the use of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). Safety training and proper procedures may ultimately prevent a medical malpractice claim and fatalities from occurring. MRIs are cooled by liquid helium which, if it happens to come into contact with oxygen in the air, can cause an explosion or fire. Also, such fires are extremely difficult to put out.

Recently in Pennsylvania, a fire broke out while an MRI was taking place. Only safety training prevented this incident from becoming catastrophic. In Alabama, problems with an MRI caused an explosion that destroyed the MRI unit and caused structural damage to the hospital facility.

Safety seminars put on by the federal government have emphasized that users of MRIs need to understand that certain materials containing iron (such as implants) need to be kept away from the magnets contained in the MRI units. Though accidents using such units may be relatively rare, the consequences of such an accident can be severe.

Medical and emergency room errors often are not always due to difficulties in diagnosis or by prescribing the wrong medication. Often such errors come about by a failure to follow routine safety protocol and inattention to detail.

The Pennsylvania fire mentioned above could have been much more severe if a MRI technologist had not been aware of a safety valve that allowed the helium to escape through a vent. Firefighters also had to carry in special equipment that did not carry ferrous like materials that might have caused an explosion. Thus, the Pennsylvania facility was only saved due to safety training and the knowledge of by a few individuals.

Source: The Morning Call, "MRI fire underscores need for education and oversight," by Tim Darragh, Dec. 30, 2011

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