FDA warns of sandbags in MRI suites

Sandbags that contain metal shavings could pose a hazard in MRI suites, according to an alert issued Friday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The FDA issued its warning after a report of a case in which healthcare staff placed a sandbag on a patient's groin to help facilitate hemostasis after a femoral artery puncture procedure. As the study began, the sandbag was pulled into the MRI scanner, damaging the system. The patient was not injured in the incident.

Staff had assumed that the sandbag contained only sand, but upon further investigation it was found to contain ferromagnetic shavings and iron pellets. The sandbag was originally purchased for the hospital's physical therapy department and shouldn't have been brought into the MRI suite, according to the FDA.

The FDA suggests that sites purchase only sandbags that are labeled with the MR Safe or MR Conditional icon. Ferromagnetic sandbags should be appropriately labeled as MR Unsafe to ensure that they aren't brought into the MRI suite, and unlabeled sandbags should not be brought into MRI rooms.

In addition, MRI staff should be educated to screen patients for ferromagnetic objects and should remove patients' blankets and sheets to search for objects. Patient records should be checked before MRI scans for recent procedures that may have required the use of a sandbag, and signs should be placed in visible areas outside the MRI room reminding staff to check for ferromagnetic objects.

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Preventing infection in MRI: Best practices for infection control in and around MRI suites, part III, July 3, 2008

Sink or swim: Why a hand sink is crucial in the MR suite, March 14, 2008

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