MRI scans are used for a variety of medical purposes. And with about 8.3 million American adults now suffering from serious psychological distress, like depression and anxiety, more MRI scans are being given than ever before. And while these scans are safe and used every day, past research has found that people with tattoos may have an uncomfortable experience during an MRI. But a new study is the first of its kind to say that MRI scans are, in fact, safe for people who are inked.
Medical professionals have expressed concern about putting people with tattoos in MRI machines because it is actually possible that the tattoo ink could be effected in the machine. Because tattoo ink contains ferrous pigment, which is magnetic, there is the possibility that the ink could interact with the static magnetic field in the MRI machine. This has resulted in people saying they experience a pulling sensation where they have tattoos.
Another concern medical professionals have is that the tattoo ink could absorb the energy of the MRI, which may result in the tattooed skin actually getting burned.
But this new study from the University College in London says that these concerns aren’t as plausible as previously thought.
The researchers conducted a study consisting of 330 participants, all tattooed. In total, MRI scans were used on 932 tattoos between the participants. Before the study began, the researchers gathered information about the tattoos, which included the size, location, and amount of blank and colored ink used.
To prevent the participants from receiving burns from the scan, no tattoos were allowed to exceed 20 centimeters in size and less than 5% of the body could be covered in tattoos.
Each participant underwent an MRI scan. And the researchers found that the majority of patients reported no negative effects during the scan.
The study did note that “there was one specific case where the study doctor found that side effects — a tingling sensation on the skin — were related to scanning. However, this unpleasant feeling disappeared within 24 hours without the affected person having required medical treatment.”
With about 14% of all Americans having at least one tattoo, there are concerns as to whether or not medical professionals should be administering MRI scans to these patients. This is the first study of this size to look at the impact of MRI scans on tattooed skin. All in all, the study results show that giving an MRI scan to someone who has tattoos is safe and should be given as necessary.
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