Headache, claustrophobia and sweating are some of the minor MRI side effects. An allergic reaction to the MRI contrast medium, in the form of inflammation or rash at the injected site has also been reported.
An MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging, is a method of scanning the internal structure of the body to detect any abnormalities. This sophisticated machine combines the power of computers along with radio waves and magnetic field to give sharp and clear images, making an in-depth analysis of the internal organs possible. However, to detect cancer, small tumors or a damaged blood vessel, MRI scan with contrast is recommended. In this procedure, a contrast (dye) is injected that highlights the body part under consideration. This helps to improve the quality of MRI scan images.
Experiencing fatigue after completion of an MRI test is relatively common. Besides this feeling of fatigue, there are also many other side effects of an MRI, which have been discussed in brief below:
Patients often complain about headache after the procedure is complete. During this procedure, the MRI machine does make a lot of noise. This may not go too well with the patient and give rise to headache.
Patients who have undergone ‘MRI with contrast’ procedure may suffer from nausea. However, the nauseating feeling will soon vanish and as such it is not a cause for worry.
Dizziness or lightheadedness can also occur after the contrast medium is administered. One may experience this feeling of vertigo immediately or hours after the procedure is over.
People who have been advised to undergo MRI scan have to first lie on a table. The table is then pushed exactly at the center of the MRI unit. The MRI machine is a small cylindrical shaped tube that accommodates only one person at a time. Also most machines these days come with the sleeping area attached to the machine, which then slides in mechanically. An MRI test may last anywhere between 45 minutes and 2 hours. So lying there even for half an hour, without any movement, is likely to cause excessive sweating.
In rare cases, patients find it difficult to breathe during scans that involves the introduction of contrast medium into the veins. This may be followed by swelling of the face and the hands. This is a serious allergic reaction and indicates the body’s intolerance towards the contrast medium.
Flushing is the body’s response to the contrast that is injected intravenously. This is one of the minor MRI risks in which the redness is confined to a specific area.
An allergic reaction to the contrast medium in the form of hives, may also develop. Hives is a skin problem that causes development of small itchy red bumps. This type of skin rash due to the contrast medium is localized and seen in the area where the contrast is administered intravenously.
Along with minor skin rash, development of blood clots is one of the uncommon MRI side effects. In this case, the MRI contrast may irritate the blood vessels, which may lead to the formation of blood clots.
Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis
Exposure to gadolinium can trigger a harmful reaction and cause nephrogenic systemic fibrosis (NSF). This is rare side effect and occurs only in people having kidney problems. When the kidneys are not working properly, administering gadolinium can cause an adverse reaction in the form of nephrogenic systemic fibrosis. In this condition, the skin texture changes and the uppermost layer (epidermis) turns hard and thick, showing fibrosis. Eyes, joints and other internal organs are also affected by fibrosis.
MRI Scan and Pregnancy
Although studies have been carried out, results are not convincing enough to establish the safety of MRI scan during pregnancy. The impact of MRI scan on the developing baby lacks conclusive research. It is not known whether MRI can harm the unborn baby. Until confirmatory research doesn’t prove the effects of MRI scanning on a fetus, it is advised not to undergo MRI in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. In general, unless it is absolutely necessary, doctors do not recommend MRI scan in pregnant women.
MRI Scan Risks
Patients fitted with a pacemaker in their chest should avoid an MRI scan. The magnetic field emanating from the machine may interfere with the working of the pacemaker. Simply put, pacemaker may no longer function correctly after coming in contact with the MRI magnetic field. The pacemaker is primarily implanted to regulate heart rate and so its malfunction can lead to irregular heart beats, palpitations, dizziness and even breathing problems. However, recent research suggests that even people with implanted pacemaker can safely undergo an MRI scan, provided the radiologist conducting the test adheres to certain precautionary measures. MRI conditional pacemakers have also been developed that work efficiently despite placed in a MRI environment.
The magnetic fields generated during the procedure can also cause implanted hearing aids to malfunction. Surgically implanted hearing devices like cochlear implants are prone to damage after exposure to MRI magnetic fields. Such devices overheating in the presence of an MRI environment is yet another cause of concern that cannot be overlooked.
In general, implanted devices are usually constructed from metal and as magnets attract metals, there is a high probability that the MRI magnetic field may exert a pulling force, causing the devices to displace from their implanted position.
Usually, most of the side effects that occur after undergoing an MRI procedure do not need any trip to a doctor. However, MRI dangers like nephrogenic systematic fibrosis will certainly require immediate medical assistance. To be on the safer side, before an MRI test, one should talk to a doctor and make him aware of health issues, if any.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.