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What Does Mumbai Death Mean For The Future Of MRI Testing?

– Contributed content –

30 January 2018. The first MRI machine was tested back in 1977. Since then, this medical marvel has saved countless lives through the study of tumors and underlying issue. But a worrying report from Mumbai, India this week announced the MRI-related death of Rajesh Maru, age 32, raising questions about the safety of MRI operations.

Maru was visiting a relative at Mumbai hospital when the incident took place. He entered an MRI room holding a metal cylinder, having been told that the machine was off. But, the magnet was still operating and attracted the canister. While it’s uncertain at this stage, it’s thought his death was caused by inhalation of released oxygen. Reports suggest that two hospital staff have been arrested as a result of this incident.

MRI machine

MRI machine (Flickr)

A further look at this issue reveals that Maru’s case is not a standalone case. There have been a few MRI related deaths of a similar nature, each caused by objects in the room being attracted to the magnetic field of the machines. One such incident also took place in Mumbai in 2014, when a technician was pinned inside the machine, between the scanner, and a ward assistant with another oxygen cylinder. The technician in question survived, but suffered severe injuries, including temporary paralysis and internal bleeding. With help in private damage, they managed to sue the makers of said machine for 10 million rupees, or $157,000. But, there’s no denying that the incident shouldn’t have happened in the first place.

What’s more, the cases don’t end there. In New York back in 2001, a six-year-old boy died during a routine scan of a benign tumor. Again, a stray oxygen canister was to blame here, as it flew at his skull during testing. In this instance, the family reached a $2.9 million settlement but had to wait until 2009 to do so.

So, should we be concerned about these electrical accidents? Few of us consider, after all, that the MRIs which should be helping us could do more damage. Indeed, reports like these aren’t common knowledge, and opinions may change drastically if they were. In truth, though, it’s important to consider the nature of these incidents before blacklisting MRIs as positive methods of assessment. In reality, the MRI machine itself is quite safe. Issues only occur when you introduce other metals into the mix. For example, aside from the deaths mentioned above, the most common injury is muscle damage. Undetected metals, or even some tattoos, can heat under the machine and cause tissue damage. Again, the damaging factor here is the exposure of metals to strong magnetic fields.

So, instead of questioning the MRI itself, it seems as though we should be reconsidering how these machines are treated. Indeed, a look at these deaths suggests that stricter regulations need implementing when it comes to MRI operation. Loose cylinders, or any other metal objects, should certainly be taken from the equation. And, more rigorous testing of appropriate candidates could also help to reduce tissue damage experienced.

The opinions expressed in this article are the contributor’s, and not those of Science & Enterprise.

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