Monday, July 03, 2006

the 'dangers' of being tattooed

As I noted in the most recent post, my mother recently got word that she is cancer-free. This news was made possible by an MRI scan that she underwent last week. While in the waiting room prior to the scan, my mother was sitting next to me and filling out some paperwork. As MRIs produce a magnetic field 10,000 times the strength of the Earth's magnetic field, I had expected that she would be required to remove her earlobe studs before the procedure. However, I was quite confused when she noted with some satisfaction that the paperwork warned tattooed patients that their ink may heat up and cause burns during the scan. "Seeee!" was her only comment, as if this warning meant that I would never be able to have an MRI. But with all of the tattooed people I've seen in my life, it's unlikely that none of them have ever had one. So I decided to do a little research on the subject, and here's what I found...
First off, there have been situations in which a patient with tattoos did experience minor burns as a result of an MRI scan. The good news for us youngens is that this type of reaction is unlikely if you have acquired your tattoo within the last 20 years. The recent developments in tattoo equipment and ink have resulted in a lessened amount of trace metals (namely iron oxide) in the ink. Nowadays, the only real risk of reactions to MRI scans involves cosmetic tattoos such as eyeliner or lipliner, whose inks often contain higher quantities of iron oxide metal.

Tattoo that has been burned as a result of an MRI scan.

All in all, the risk of reaction for us tattooed folk when entering that claustrophoby capsule is quite low. The one thing you will want to remember if you are tattooed and must get an MRI is that your body does not lie to you. If you feel tingling or heat on or around your tattooed areas, inform the technician immediately.
Now you know! :o)

3 comments:

henry slash matt said...

1.) My favorite part from the article:

"Artistic tattoos have now become mainstream and are no longer found exclusively on sailors and bikers."

2.) Let's not forget the lessons on tattoo safety from hit TV show House:

-Tats received whilst in jail often use dark inks containing high concentrations of metal, leading LL Cool J to scream like a little girl in the MRI.
-Contaminated needles can transmit, among other things, hepatitis, which can kill you in all kinds of ways (such as cancerous tumors!)

3.) Just to play devil's advocate:

You might need to rethink your defense of modification, i.e. "if you don't like it, don't get mods." Just seeing radical mods disgusts some people- that's like saying "if you don't like to hear people swear, don't swear." It's not bigotry or tyranny; it's just an ingrained impulse towards revulsion, and until you can convince everyone that pierced flesh isn't scary, you'll be fighting the innate human fear of(apparent) mutilation and pain.

Kim andre said...

So its really true about the burning tattoo in MRI scan? ofcourse i got a tattoo 7 months before i went into one but that was just a small one that did just affect one part of my body, just that part of my body where my tattoo was :`(

Bonus said...

Occasionally dark tattoos are done with an ink that contains a ferromagnetic material and because the MRI machine heats up metal there is always the potential for burns. However, because the technique can be adjusted, very few patients will be turned away from an MRI. Even patients with metal implants (hip or knee replacements) are imaged. As long as your technologist knows about your tattoos you should be ok.

Regardless it is important to remember that the magnet is always on and may be as powerful as a million times as strong as the Earth's magnetic field. Search 'MRI accident' on youtube to see what metal in an MRI exam room can do.