Risk of MRI Burns from Tattoo Ink Is Rare, Say Researchers

February 6, 2019 | Strategic Insights for Health System


Do tattoos pose a risk to individuals undergoing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)? A letter in the January 31, 2019, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine says that although case reports have implicated tattoos as a source for some adverse reactions during MRI, researchers at a London-based imaging center found that the likelihood of an adverse reaction is less than 1%. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has warned of rare cases of swelling or burning when materials in the tattoo dye heat up during an MRI procedure. The researchers monitored 330 individuals with at least one tattoo who underwent a total of 585 MRI sessions in a scanner with a magnetic field strength of 3 tesla. The researchers limited the study to individuals whose tattoos were no more than 20 centimeters in length and covered no more than 5% of the body.

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