MRI and patient safety: Still waiting to go global

So which do you want first, the good news or the bad news?

The good news is that MRI patient safety has improved around the globe with the adoption of clinical and physical screening tools that enhance best practices, greater attention to operational protocols, and better suite layouts.

Now the bad news: Despite the promulgation of myriad safety standards and practices, their implementation has been irregular, uneven, and far from universal among facilities.

Those of us in the U.S. have been forced to recognize the disparities in the implementation of patient safety standards at our own MRI facilities. Many of us hoped that conditions were better in other countries, particularly those with nationalized healthcare systems. It turns out that this is not the case.

Within the last few years, both U.K.'s National Health Service (NHS) and Canada's Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care in Ontario have conducted surveys of state-run MRI facilities and found the safety provisions "inconsistent" among their MRI providers and "inadequate" at many facilities.

The Canadian study, completed in 2006, compared the safety provisions of several MRI facilities with those identified in published literature, primarily the 2004 edition of the American College of Radiology (ACR) "White Paper on MR Safety." Irregularities were found in training, nomenclature, signage, and physical safety provisions.

An article published in the NHS' "Patient Safety Bulletin" for January 2007 echoed the findings of the Canadian study, finding significant variation in the safety provisions among NHS MRI providers, including access restrictions and exam preparations.

A major thrust of the NHS article is how language and literacy impact a patient's ability to give informed consent and assist in their screening process. The NHS article also reinforces the value of effective accident reporting structures to effectively inform risk management processes.

While we hope to find MRI providers who are a part of a diverse system and have uniformity in applying established best practices for the safety of the MR patient, such a system does not appear to exist, yet, anywhere in the world. It is up to us then to create it.

By Tobias Gilk contributing writer
April 24, 2007

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

Related Reading

An open letter to MRI equipment vendors, April 12, 2007

MR suite level designations: Don't let complex procedures overwhelm your facility, March 27, 2007

How to calculate your MRI suite safety score, February 8, 2007

MRI risk isn't standing still -- are you? January 29, 2007

It's 300 gauss: Do you know where your vent is? December 29, 2006

Copyright © 2007 MRI-Planning

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