A Practical Guide to MR Imaging Safety: What Radiologists Need to Know

Radiographics. 2015 Oct;35(6):1722-37. doi: 10.1148/rg.2015150108.


Magnetic resonance (MR) imaging can provide critical diagnostic and anatomic information while avoiding the use of ionizing radiation, but it has a unique set of safety risks associated with its reliance on large static and changing magnetic fields, high-powered radiofrequency coil systems, and exogenous contrast agents. It is crucial for radiologists to understand these risks and how to mitigate them to protect themselves, their colleagues, and their patients from avoidable harm and to comply with safety regulations at MR imaging sites. Basic knowledge of MR imaging physics and hardware is necessary for radiologists to understand the origin of safety regulations and to avoid common misconceptions that could compromise safety. Each of the components of the MR imaging unit can be a factor in injuries to patients and personnel. Safety risks include translational force and torque, projectile injury, excessive specific absorption rate, burns, peripheral neurostimulation, interactions with active implants and devices, and acoustic injury. Standards for MR imaging device safety terminology were first issued in 2005 and are required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, with devices labeled as "MR safe," "MR unsafe," or "MR conditional." MR imaging contrast agent safety is also discussed. Additional technical and safety policies relate to pediatric, unconscious, incapacitated, or pregnant patients and pregnant imaging personnel. Division of the MR imaging environment into four distinct, clearly labeled zones--with progressive restriction of entry and increased supervision for higher zones--is a mandatory and key aspect in avoidance of MR imaging-related accidents. All MR imaging facilities should have a documented plan to handle emergencies within zone IV, including cardiac arrest or code, magnet quench, and fires. Policies from the authors' own practice are provided for additional reference. Online supplemental material is available for this article.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Contraindications
  • Contrast Media / adverse effects
  • Device Approval / standards
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / adverse effects
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / standards
  • Male
  • Occupational Health / standards
  • Patient Safety*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Pregnancy
  • Prostheses and Implants
  • Radiology / methods*
  • Risk Management


  • Contrast Media