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Burn prevention (MRI specific)


MRTs take precautions to prevent burns to patients during MRI scanning


+ Burns in MRI

  • The radiofrequency (RF) present in the MRI environment is a form of non-ionizing radiation.
  • Burns are the most common patient injuries to occur in the MRI environment.1
    • Many burns are caused by the significant RF-induced heating of wires and leads, as well as conductive loops formed by the patient's own body
    • Excessive MRI-related heating has been reported for leads, guidewires, certain types of catheters (e.g., catheters with thermistors or other conducting components), and certain external fixation or cervical fixation devices2

+ Preventing burns

  • Screening plays an important role in identifying potential risk for overheating and burns.
    • Contraindicated devices (e.g., wires that may cause internal heating), external fixation devices or tattoos are identified during routine screening
    • The patient is checked for previously used electrodes and cables that may have been inadvertently left behind3
    • Patients with tattoos and body piercing are informed of the risk for heating


  • Patients are monitored, with continuous communication throughout the exam (also see Patient monitoring and physical assessment guideline for more information) so that early signs of burning (e.g., tingling, warming) are identified.4
  • MRTs take steps to ensure that the creation of unwanted conductive loops are avoided during MRI procedures:4,5
    • Cables run parallel to the main magnetic field, without touching the bore, and exit the bore of the magnet as close to the centre as possible
    • Cables remain straight, the formation of loops is avoided
    • Coil cables, such as ECG/VCG cables are separated and parallel to each other and the magnet bore
    • Insulation/padding is placed between the patient and the coils
    • To prevent the patient’s skin from coming into contact with the bore of the magnet – insulation (foam pads) is used as necessary
    • No conductive loops form with any parts of the patient’s body (i.e., skin-to-skin contact) – insulation (foam pads) is used as necessary


  • Physiological monitoring sensors (e.g., pulse/oximeter) are placed outside the scanning area whenever possible, as well as away from RF coils.4
  • Equipment that is damaged or past its expiry date is never used in the MRI environment.3,4
    • All coils, cables and leads are routinely checked for damage
    • MRTs are familiar with manufacturers’ instructions
    • Electrical devices that are not functioning properly during the scan should be removed immediately


  • Implanted cardiac pacemakers and implantable cardioverter defibrillators should be considered a relative contraindication for MRI.2
    • Any exception should be considered on a case-by-case basis and based on facility policy and procedures

+ Checking for burns

  • Patients who complain of burning or discomfort are examined for signs of burns or reddening of the skin.3
  • If a burn is discovered on a patient:
    • The MRT ensures that the appropriate medical staff is notified and the patient receives the appropriate treatment3
    • All relevant information is documented in the medical record and an incident report is filed
    • Notify your facility’s biomedical engineering department and quarantine the electrodes involved plus any remaining in the packet3

+ References

  1. The Joint Commission. Sentinel Event Alert: Preventing accidents and injuries in the MRI suite. Issue 38, February 14, 2008. Available at: Accessed March 20, 2013.
  2. Shellock FG. Reference Manual for Magnetic Resonance Safety, Implants, and Devices. 2013 Ed. Los Angeles, CA: Biomedical Research Publishing Group; 2013.
  3. Lange SE, Nguyen ON. Cables and electrodes can burn patients during MRI. Nursing 2006;36(11):18.
  4. Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). Device Bulletin: Safety Guidelines for Magnetic Resonance Imaging Equipment in Clinical Use. Available at: Accessed March 20, 2013.
  5. Stanford School of Medicine. MRI Safety. Available at: Accessed March 20, 2013.

Related guidelines



October 16, 2013


Canadian Association of Medical Radiation Technologists
85 Albert St, Suite 1000, Ottawa, ON, K1P 6A4
phone: 613 234-0012 / 800 463-9729
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