CDI Miami | Wednesday May 13, 2015

MRI’s and Tattoos: Possible Side-Effects

According to the FDA, more than 45 million Americans have a tattoo somewhere on their bodies. A tattoo is usually a form of self-expression, creates a fashion statement, or helps remember a special place or person. So, how do an MRI effect tattoos?

MRI’s have an effect on the iron within tattoos, as an MRI uses strong magnets along with radio frequency waves to gather data. Combined, they create an electromagnetic pulse that send signals from the MRI machine into our bodies. On the lighter side of the spectrum, tattoos can merely distort the images obtained from the scan. However, tattoos containing a high level of iron can heat and cause burns because of the magnetic field within the tattoo. During the imaging process, the current flowing can cause that metal within the iron to get hot enough to burn your skin. The inflammation can be anywhere from mild irritation to a second degree burn.

To make sure that you are safe, consult with your doctor prior to examination and discuss any concerns you may have. Your doctor will be able to evaluate the risks and provide suitable alternatives should a risk present itself. Some people are prohibited from having an MRI procedure done, especially if they have metal implants, such as cardiac pacemakers. Moreover, if you got your tattoo recently, such as the last 20 years, you won’t feel anything in the scan, as tattoo ink is metal-free. Previous to that time, tattoo artists were more prone to use ink that had metal filaments. These are the incidents that reported the negative side-effects from the scans, such as burns and blurred images.

Prior to getting an MRI, it’s important to remove all metal items you may have on you, such as: body rings, keys, paperclips or even hairpins. With magnetism, any metal object can quickly become a projectile missile. Not getting an MRI for fear of complications is much riskier than avoiding one, getting an MRI when you have a tattoo is safe as long as you take the necessary precautions as outlined above.