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Will I be exposed to radiation if I have an MRI?

  
  
  
  
  

No.  You will not receive any ionizing radiation. In non-technical terms, ionizing radiation means radiation that is capable of altering chemical compounds. – In this case the chemicals that make up your body or DNA.  Mostly we’re worried about radiation that could potentially alter our DNA  If radiation cannot change DNA then there is no accepted scientific evidence that it can cause cancer.  During a clinical MRI examination you will not receive radiation that is capable of damaging or altering the chemical structure of your DNA.

X-rays, on the other hand, are capable of damaging DNA.radiation  Fortunately, this is very rare.  Moreover, a healthy cell can generally repair damage done by ionizing radiation without becoming cancerous.  Interestingly, cancer cells, don’t  repair damage from radiation well and tend to die -- this is how Radiation Therapy is successful in treating cancer!

What is non-ionizing radiation, and is it used in an MRI?

We don’t often think about it, but the term radiation means any energy that is radiated or transmitted in the form or rays, waves, or particles.  Ionizing radiation, capable of altering chemical compounds by breaking the bonds that hold the atoms together, is only a very small fraction of all the possible types of radiation.  Most non-ionizing radiation is, well, heat!  When you hold your hand a few inches above a candle flame your hand gets warmed by the radiation -- heat waves -- emitted from the flame.  This type of radiation is called infrared radiation.  Light is radiation.  Radio waves are radiation.  These are all types of electromagnetic radiation.  (As it’s name suggests, electromagnetic radiation is either electrical or magnetic.)

We rely on electromagnetic energy in the process of MRI.  Specifically, we use crafty combinations of magnetic fields and radio waves.  But the types and frequencies are, by their nature and strength, non-ionizing, and there is no evidence to suggest that having an MRI can lead to cancer.

But can the types of non-ionizing radiation we use in MRI have other undesirable effects?

Even though the candle does not emit ionizing radiation if your hand is given an overdose of infrared radiation (heat) you’ll get a burn!  The amount of energy used in an MRI scan is pretty impressive, but it’s very, very carefully controlled.  Nonetheless, and in very rare cases, we can run into situations where the energy is concentrated in an unexpected and undesirable way, usually by certain types of metal.  This is why patients are  asked numerous times, and in different ways, whether they have any metal in their bodies.  Under certain conditions this could result in heating of the metal and a burn in the surrounding tissue.  That’s why so many of us in this field are so careful.

The primary concern is always patient safety!

Bottom line:  MRI does not use ionizing radiation or any type of radiation that is linked with cancer.  There is no evidence, or even suggestion, that having an MRI can increase your risk of getting cancer.  It is very safe, and we do not know of any harm that comes from having an MRI. 

 

Comments

which is the non ionizing radiation used in MRI?
Posted @ Saturday, July 13, 2013 10:50 AM by thejus
The non-ionizing radiation used in MRI are electromagnetic radiation: magnetic fields and radio waves. Thank you for your question! 
Posted @ Monday, July 15, 2013 10:27 AM by Lisa Campisi
Watch Money and Medicine. Doctors are talikng about MRI's causing cancer.
Posted @ Sunday, August 25, 2013 12:52 PM by lauren
Lauren, thank you for your comment. MRIs are a very sensitive diagnostic procedure and can be extremely helpful in the early detection of cancer. MRI is not linked to the cause of cancer and does not use radiation or any type of radiation linked to cancer. It looks like the segment you mention will air on PBS on 9/25. The show investigates ways of controlling healthcare expenditure while improving overall care. Shields can actually do both with our high-quality MRI and exceptional pricing. If you have any concerns or questions about MRIs related to cancer, Shields would be happy to put you in touch with one of our physicians or technologists. Thank you!
Posted @ Monday, August 26, 2013 7:52 AM by Lisa Campisi
do you need to have any safety tags or badges for measuring the exposure after each case as a regulatory measure and if so could you give some information about them
Posted @ Thursday, August 29, 2013 1:06 PM by gurruaj rao
Gurraj, In short, no we do not have to wear any measuring devices to measure radiation during MRI. While RF is categorized as a form of radiation, it falls in the range of radio waves and is therefore non ionizing.  
When we see people in Radiology, CT Scan and Nuclear Medicine wearing film badges, they do so because they work with and around ionizing radiation, or wave forms that have the energy to displace electrons from an atom creating free radicals. MRI does not use wave forms with this level of energy. 
Posted @ Thursday, August 29, 2013 2:04 PM by Lisa Campisi
In the last 3 minutes of MRI scan I was overheated and moved my hands and arms to protect my face.At the end my eyes were sore and face felt sunburned. That night I felt as if I was burning up. They said it could not happen. 7 weeks later my face and knees are hot at night. My neck aches and my tongue still feels as if I`ve drunk hot liquid. Will symptoms ever subside or is the radiation heat permanent
Posted @ Saturday, March 01, 2014 11:27 AM by julie luscombe
Hi Julie, Thank you for your question. First, I’m sorry to hear about your experience and heat sensation. Your health is extremely important and since there are many possible reasons you could be experiencing feelings you describe, it’s very important that you be seen by your physician as soon as possible. Second, I want to ease your mind and tell you that there is no ionizing radiation in MRI. The article above explains in more detail how MRI works to achieve the detailed image of your body through strong magnetic fields and powerful radio frequencies . Generally speaking, here is some basic information on MRI and heat: MRI is considered extremely safe with minimal risk, however it is not completely hazard-free. Because of the field strength of the machines, the system can generate a good deal of heat and certain clients may be more sensitive to heat and changes in temperature than others. While I cannot speak for all MRI providers, Shields facilities follow ACR safety guidelines.  
 
If you would like to further discuss your experience please feel free to reach Lisa Campisi at 617-376-7436.  
 
Again, I urge you to reach you to your primary care physician or attending physician to be sure you receive the care necessary to alleviate your symptoms.  
 
Wishing you good health 
Posted @ Thursday, March 06, 2014 10:38 AM by Lisa Campisi
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