MRI safety in Canada

Among the many things that those of us in the U.S. would do well to learn from our Canadian neighbors are the French language (from Quebecers), the metric system, and MRI safety.

"What?" you say. "MRI safety?!?"

Indeed, it seems Canadians may be poised to leapfrog their neighbors to the south in MRI safety by making safety provisions a requirement for MRI providers.

Now Canada has a much shorter list of MRI providers than does any single city in the U.S. because healthcare is provided by the Canadian government and a handful of imaging facilities at the fringes of Canadian law, so managing such a transition is significantly simpler than it would be in the U.S.

The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care for the province of Ontario has just published its "MRI Environment Safety in Ontario" report, which outlines the current state of operational and physical safety for Ontario MRI providers. The deficiencies found included:

  • Different -- and sometimes contradictory -- standards for signage and labeling
  • Failure to uniformly control access to the MRI suite
  • Inadequate staff training
  • Noncompliance with the four-zone screening and access principles
  • Failure to designate a MR safety officer for facilities

The report goes on to make a series of recommendations that are largely appropriated from the American College of Radiology's "White Paper on MR Safety" and the new language by ASTM International and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The following are the key recommendations of the Ontario government:

  • Use the updated MRI categorization: MR Safe, MR Conditional, MR Unsafe.
  • Strictly control access to the MR environment.
  • Clearly indicate the 5 G perimeter on the floor surrounding the scanner.
  • Assign a permanent location for equipment in the magnet room.
  • Use consistent MR labels on equipment used in the MR environment.
  • Use consistent MR signs that clearly indicated the hazards of the MR environment.
  • Require outpatients undergoing MRI scans to change into hospital gowns without metal fasteners.
  • Provide annual training for personnel working in the MR environment.

This specific effort undertaken by the province of Ontario mirrors an effort that is under way at the federal level within the Canadian government. Canada is currently exploring the possibility of requiring operational and physical safety standards for all MRI facilities within the country.

While legal standards for MRI safety may still be in their formative stages in Canada, they are currently far ahead of the U.S., where, without governmental or professional enforcement of MRI safety standards, there is nothing in place to require MRI facilities to implement the procedures that we know reduce accidents and injury. This leaves each unfortunate injured patient to look to civil litigation to define the legal standard of care.

By Tobias Gilk contributing writer
September 1, 2006

Reprinted from by permission of the authors. If you would like more information on any aspect of MR facility design or safety, please contact Robert Junk or Tobias Gilk at Jünk Architects.

Related Reading

Magnet room finishes: Protect MRI safety and efficiency when building, August 14, 2006

What TV's 'House' teaches us about MRI and safety, August 1, 2006

Magnet room equipment and furnishings: The ultimate caveat emptor, July 19, 2006

Selecting a site for your next MRI suite: It pays to plan ahead, July 12, 2006

Radiology is dead -- long live imaging! June 23, 2006

Copyright © 2006 Jünk Architects, PC

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