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Safety of MRIs in Patients with Tattoos

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr. Martina Callaghan PhD Head of Physics & Senior Lecturer Wellcome Centre for Human Neuroimaging Institute of Neurology University College London London  

Dr. Callaghan

Dr. Martina Callaghan PhD
Head of Physics & Senior Lecturer
Wellcome Centre for Human Neuroimaging
Institute of Neurology
University College London

MedicalResearch.com:  What is the background for this study?  What are the main findings?

Response: As mirrors the situation in the general population, we found that an increasing number of volunteers who were seeking to enter cognitive neuroscience studies at our Centre had tattoos. However, the magnetic fields used in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) pose a potential safety risk for people with tattoos. A number of case reports have described such incidents.  However, as these describe isolated cases retrospectively, there was not enough information to objectively assess the risk of tattoo-related adverse reactions for persons having an MRI scan.  Therefore, in 2011, we decided to embark upon this first prospective study to quantitatively assess this risk.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Over the six years that this study was conducted, we scanned 330 people covering a broad age range.  Some participants were scanned multiple times meaning that we had a total of 585 scanning sessions to assess, which included 932 tattoos.  For the specific conditions we tested in this study, we found the risk of an adverse reaction to be low. 

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: There is a lot of variability in how risk and benefit are weighed when deciding whether or not to scan an individual.  Some research centres allow no persons with tattoos to be scanned.  However, if the criteria used in our study were to be adopted elsewhere, then our study provides an objective quantitative assessment of the associated risk.  Furthermore, the low risk level we have identified may allow more people to be scanned, and ensure that the people studied are more reflective of the general population.

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: While the results we presented are limited to specific configurations and scanner types, this study adds to the positive safety record of MRI. 

Safety of Tattoos in Persons Undergoing MRI
January 31, 2019
N Engl J Med 2019; 380:495-496
DOI: 10.1056/NEJMc1811197

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Last Updated on February 6, 2019 by Marie Benz MD FAAD