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Radiofrequency Heating in Magnetic Resonance Imaging: Safety Considerations

Tobi Pledger, DVM, MS, RT (R)(MR)(CT)* and Emanuel Kanal, MD, FACR, FISMRM, AANG

*MRI Technologist, Duke University Hospital.
Professor of Radiology and Neuroradiology, Director of Magnetic Resonance Services, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
Address correspondence to: Tobi Pledger, MRI Technologist, Duke University Hospital, 2301 Erwin Drive, Durham, NC 27710. E-mail: webair@aol.com.

Disclosures: The authors report having no significant financial or advisory relationships with corporate organizations related to this activity.

ABSTRACT

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is often considered to be an imaging modality with no risk to the patient, as long as there are no ferromagnetic implants or contrast complications (eg, allergic reactions or nephrogenic systemic fibrosis). However, it is important to recognize that among other potential MRI-related risks, the transmitted radiofrequency (RF) electromagnetic radiation used in MRI poses a source of potential harm to the patient. RF-induced heating needs to be understood by technologists performing MRI examinations because it carries a risk of excessive heating and thermal burns. This article presents the mechanisms by which RF can cause burns, as well as safety precautions that can help reduce this risk.

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