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Old 11-17-2009, 05:52 AM   #1
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franniej HB User
Question MRI burn

I was wondering if anyone had experienced a burn from an MRI machine? I had a scan last week and while sedated I could feel heat in my arm but wasn't responsive enough to do anything about it. Where my arms were against the side of the scanner I now have burning like sunburn(no visble blistering just a red mark) but beneath the skin is a large hard lump which is extremely painful. It feels like a cross between a burn, a bad bruise and a break. It is not getting any better although the exterior burning has deminished. I was wondering if anyone else had experienced such a thing and if so how long does this type of thing take to recover. I have surgery booked on that part of my arm in a couple of weeks for an unrelated problem but suspect they won't do it if it isn't recovered from whatever is causing this lump. I have not had any other injuries that could cause it and it began to swell a few hours after the scan.

Any information would be appreciated.

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Old 11-17-2009, 08:43 AM   #2
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Re: MRI burn

now that IS really a strange thing to have happen at all really. i have had to have 17 seperate MRIs done since 2001 for a wide array of medical issues and have NEVER ever even once actually felt any sensation or feeling of real 'heat' during any of them ever. i cannot imagine just how this actually even occured? just exactly what was that scan being done ON that arm for? what is going on in the arm that is requireing the surgery since this just 'could' actually be releated in some possibl way? touching the inside of that machine with any body parts even just should not have caused that at all. something defineitly is not right here or it would not have even occured, you know what i mean?

did you speak with anyone at the facility where this MRI was actually done on you right after it occured? if not, i would call them or just show up and ask to speak to a real radiologist about what happened(the higher up radiologists are MDs in some cases too). they would be able to actually tell you more about just how or what could possibly have caused this to happen to you. since any given MRI ONLY uses magnetism it would not be any type of actual radiation type burn situation at all.

but i seriously would be asking that facility and a good radiologist about this and how it could have even occured like this did. i too would love to know just how this could happen given the huge amount of actual MRIs i have had done with absolutley NO 'heat" anywhere or any real issues to speak of from any of them, ever. is there any chance at all that you could have some type of metal imbedded into the skin in that area with the lump? thats about the only thing i can possibly think of that could even remotely cause an issue. but i would be asking some questions here big time. you just really DO need to know ya know? good luck with everything. please let me know what you find out, K? FB
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Old 11-18-2009, 09:07 AM   #3
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Question Re: MRI burn

Thanks FB for a reply.
I have also had many MRI's done before (10) and have never had any issues with heat. One time I did come out bright red but that faded after a few hours but it was not related to heat.

I decided to investigate today and went straight to the horses' mouth, who happens to be my sister. She is lead scientist at a Magnetic Resonance centre.

This is what I am told... MRI uses electromagnetic energy and pulses of RF (radio frequency) to create the images. All fairly complex but it involves RF signal close to those of microwaves. The magnetism is about 25 000 times stronger than the earths magnetic field. The RF pulses are specific to hydrogen atoms in our body and it moves those around and via the coils and receivers in the MRI machine they are translated into images. (Hope I got that right...similiar idea even if not totally correct)

Although rare she told me you can get burns from the machine if the conditions are right (happens to not feel right though! ) The concentration of electrical current can cause burns and tissue damage.

There should never be any direct contact between your skin and the body of the machine and it is meant to have some padding there if you are likely to touch it. The transmit RF coil(that sends the pulses) is right behind the tunnel.
You should not have parts of your body touching each other where they can form a closed loop.

Plus certain medical leads,some surgical clips/pins etc and patches can be conductive and cause burns.

I had no medical equipment nor patches but had two of the other options. They put me in the scanner with my arms on top of my chest with my hands folded and I also had both elbows touching the the body of the machine. I guess a recipe for the outcome I have. I believe what I have is an RF burn which would explain why there is very little visible on the outside. Does this mean my inner bits at the elbows are nice and tenderly cooked then?

I definitely do not have any metal in my arms so we can rule that one out. The scan was actually on my back and totally unrelated to the arm problems. Arm surgery is for nerve damage to elbow.

I guess it was inattentiveness or lack of knowledge on the technicians part that this happened plus the fact that I had sedation and was too dopey to realise what was happening. I couldn't possibly go back to the centre and say anything because they are the one and only company that do medical imaging in practically the whole of the state I live in. I do not want to get on their bad side that's for sure. I did however write to the director of the company telling him to get his staff to get their crap together because if it was an elderly person or a child it would be very serious. I hope they take the advice and save someone else the pain of it.

So I am still no closer to finding out how long it will take to heal but am more knowledgeable for the experience I guess. Sis also told me that none of them are stupid enough to get a burn to find out healing times and side effects etc so she can't help on that part of it. Don't blame them because it isn't overly pleasant and so far it is not improving. Oh, I did mention it to the tech after the scan that my arms were burning and she laughed and said "oh
did it get a little hot?" end of conversation as she walked away. No interest and as though it was common there.

Anyway, thanks for your input. It is appreciated.

please excuse typos

Old 11-20-2009, 12:42 PM   #4
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Re: MRI burn

It is the electric field that causes heating in conductive tissues. MRI uses radiofrequency magnetic fields to excite and detect signal; however radio frequency magnetic fields generate electric fields as well (Maxwell's equation)

FDA sets limits for Specific Absorption Rate(SAR) to limit amount of power deposited in the body tissues as heat. There are two kinds of heating associated with MRI scanners: global and local. All scanners are equipped with realtime power monitors to keep the global SAR within FDA limits. However local SAR will be a function of patient/coil/cable placement in the bore.

Any closed conductive loop will have current induced on it; which creates a secondary magnetic field, which creates local electric field which cannot be monitored by the scanner power monitors and can cause burns. All RF receive coils are equipped with circuit breakers during transmit to break the loops open. Technicians shall not loop any cables inside the scanner, and instruct the patient not to touch their hands/feet/knees together to prevent formation of body loops.

Placement of the body tissues next to conductors is also important. pads shall be used to space the tissue from any transmit coil/receive coil/cable, to increase impedance to RF current flowing into the body.

Old 11-24-2009, 06:29 AM   #5
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Re: MRI burn

Thanks downhill. Your post was the more technological version of mine I think. Great info. Thanks!

Old 05-13-2011, 08:43 AM   #6
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Re: MRI burn

I had the same experience! Both of my arms were a little pink by the elbows on the outside of my arms where they were resting against the machine. During the procedure, my left arm felt as if it were being burned and the technician just dismissed it when I asked about it. The resulting marks are gone but it's a week later and I still have a very hard lump on my arm and it is very painful.

Old 05-13-2011, 12:48 PM   #7
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Re: MRI burn

I am sorry that this happened to you. I am more concerned that you were hurt, and burned during the MRI. Has anyone looked at your burn professionally? If you had blisters then this was at least a second degree burn. If was bigger then the palm of your hand , this is considered a burn that requires medical treatment. Special burn cream should have been prescribed, telfa pads appllied after the cream so the area would not stick to the burn, then the whole area needs to be wrapped around in gauze wrap, or something similar. In burn units they have a special burn wrap that is light , and is basically a gauze pad that is stronger. I do not what type of surgery you need on your arm, but they still can go through with it. If the burn is a third degree then, the surgons may want to do a skin graph at the same time.

Last edited by mscat40; 05-13-2011 at 12:50 PM.

Old 05-14-2011, 03:51 AM   #8
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Re: MRI burn

The burn on my arm/elbow was small (about the width of a couple of fingers) and did not blister. This went away after about a day but I am still left with this large bump on my arm that is very painful. I have an appointment with my primary in 4 days and will make sure to talk with her about this if it is still hurting me at that time.

Old 05-14-2011, 09:56 PM   #9
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Re: MRI burn

I was burned in a MRI because of titanium plates in my face that shouldn't have caused a problem. However, my face started heating up and I was burning and screamed to get out. I had a huge blister under my lip where the plates are. The only possible solution the radiologists came up with was perhaps some metal bits from the drill when I had the plates put in. They told me not to have another MRI. I would be willing to jump right back in. Over the years, some doctors are surprised and others say I shouldn't have had one with the titanium. I don't know where the truth lays, but I have lost valuable tool for digonastic tests.
I appreciate the information provided though about not touching the feet together etc. so I can make sure family members are careful

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