Federal health officials have warned that patients who wear nicotine or other drug patches during MRI scans run a risk of being burned. This is because some patches contain tiny metal elements that can be heated by the device’s huge magnet. Dr. Sandra Kweder, deputy director of the Food and Drug Administration’s new drug office, observed: “Some, but not all, of these patches contain a little bit of aluminum, just enough that the patch could overheat if worn during an MRI scan.” Dr. Kweder says the FDA has received reports of as many as five patients wearing patches who experienced a skin burn similar to a bad sunburn during screening. It should be noted that federal health officials are generally alerted to only a fraction of the injuries associated with drug and device use.
According to Dr. Kweder, there are about 60 kinds of drug patches sold in the United States. About 20 of the patches contain the tiny metal fragments. Patients are not always warned of the contents of these metal-containing products. Because few people consult the box for a warning before or after donning a patch, the FDA will soon require that all such products carry a warning on the patch itself. But the precise wording is still under discussion by the FDA. Patients should consult their doctors on whether to replace or reuse patches after removal for scans.
The patch alert is the latest in a series of safety warnings involving magnetic resonance imaging that have resulted from the unpredictable effects of the strong magnets used in MRI devices. It was reported in the New York Times that most of the nation’s MRI centers have experienced injury to patients or damage to the devices because of accidents involving metal objects. Some of the injuries have been very serious and deaths have been reported. In one widely-reported accident, a six-year-old boy was fatally injured at Westchester Medical Center in 2001 when a metal oxygen tank flew into the MRI chamber in which he was lying and struck him in the head.
I doubt seriously if very many people even understand how the MRI machines really work. Few – if any – will realize that there are burn risks associated with undergoing an MRI. The medical community must do a better job of educating the public about the risks mentioned above.
Source: New York Times
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