HOUSTON (October 07, 2015)

Woman in MRI MachineFirst responders and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines both save lives every day. The former uses expert training and efficiency to address emergent situations while the latter harnesses incredible technology to detect potential problems inside the body.

Despite the good both do, the potential safety risk when first responders and MRI machines cross paths is what prompted Memorial Hermann Orthopedic & Spine Hospital to reach out to the West University Place Fire Department and the Bellaire Fire Department in the name of safety education. Recently, Memorial Hermann Orthopedic & Spine hosted more than a dozen firefighters to demonstrate MRI safety.

“The health and safety of our patients is always our top priority,” Ed Tufaro, Vice President of Operations at Memorial Hermann Orthopedic & Spine Hospital. “This was a great collaboration by two entities that share a common goal and are taking proactive steps to ensure the safety of patients as well as their own staff and crew members.”

The potential safety risks comes from the tremendous magnetic force created by the MRI machine, which can be up to 30,000 to 60,000 times greater than the earth’s gravitational pull. While the magnetic force is a tremendous benefit in capturing non-invasive internal images and identifying potential health concerns in patients, it can also create a safety risk when metal objects, like many of the tools first responders carry, come within range of a MRI machine.

“Healthcare professionals who are around MRI machines on a daily basis undergo thorough training and education to take proper safety measures,” said Memorial Hermann Orthopedic & Spine Hospital Radiology Manager Augustine Magana, RT (R), ARRT. “It’s equally important for first responders to understand the affect MRI machines have on metal objects for the sake of patients and their own personal safety.”

The magnetic force on a metal object near a MRI machine becomes exponentially greater the heavier it is. For example, the pull on a pair of scissors will be much greater than that on a house key, and so on. An oxygen tank or axe, which some firefighters carry, could become dangerous within 10 feet of a MRI machine.

As part of the training, the first responders were made aware of the four zones around MRI machines, how metal is affected in each zone, and that MRI machines are magnetized 24 hours per day, as well as the fundamental operating principles of the machine.

“The training offered by Memorial Hermann Orthopedic & Spine Hospital was a great learning experience for the firefighters,” said Alton Moses, Assistant Fire Chief and Fire Marshal of the City of Bellaire.