Face masks not safe in MRI machines, study shows

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July 15, 2022 – Some types of face masks are not safe to wear in and around MRI machines, according to new research from scientists at Cardiff University.

The team tested eight different types of commercially available filtering facepiece respirators (FFP3) and found that five contained magnetic components that they considered “unsafe for MRI”.

Many masks contain nose bands or metal clips to help shape the mask over the nose or metal clasps to hold the elastic straps in place. Some masks also have an antimicrobial coating usually containing silver or copper.

When reacting with the huge magnets inside an MRI machine, the metal components can lead to a number of complications including mask displacement, the risk of the metal components flying off or potentially burning the patient.

There has already been a reported incident in the United States where a patient reported a face mask burn during an MRI.

Additionally, metallic components can also cause artifacts to appear on a scan which can, in some cases, render scans unusable.

In the absence of any official guidance regarding the wearing of masks in and around MRI machines, the team recommends a color-coded system to distinguish between “MRI-safe” masks and those that a patient can bring to his appointment on the day.

In their study, the team performed three MRIs on a 3D-printed model of a head and neck fitted with eight commercially available FFP3 masks.

The safety of each mask was based on the presence of ferromagnetic material components, the presence of metallic materials, a measurable deflection at the bore of the MRI machine, and a temperature measurement above 40°C during testing.

The team found that five of the eight masks contained ferromagnetic components and were therefore classified as “unsafe for MRI”.

Two masks were deemed “MRI safe” while one was deemed “MRI conditional” due to the potential risk of local heating under certain conditions inside the MRI machine .

“At this time, there is no safety documentation regarding the wearing of face masks in and around an MRI machine, so hospital staff are unaware of the potential dangers that masks could ask,” said the study’s lead author, Dr Bethany Keenan, of the school at Cardiff University. Engineering.

“It is therefore extremely important not to assume that a mask is safe before an MRI examination and to carry out a safety assessment to determine which components are made of ferromagnetic metals and which are made of non-ferromagnetic metals.

“We suggest that, where possible, surgical masks be ordered in a distinct color to distinguish between an ‘MRI safe’ surgical mask and an ‘MRI safe’ surgical mask.”

The study was published in the journal Clinical Radiology.

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