New study highlights the dangers of metallic fabrics in face masks and sportswear for MRI patients

A new Current issues in Diagnostic radiology study to examine the role different fabrics may play in thermal burns, finding that metallic fabrics increasingly used in items such as face masks and sportswear may be particularly problematic.[1]

The trend to use metallic threads in clothing is relatively recent, the study notes, and awareness of their existence is low. Additionally, many clothing items have incomplete labeling; for example, the authors cited a case where a man wearing sweatpants labeled 100% polyester suffered second-degree burns during an MRI.

This means that unlike obviously risky adornments such as metal zippers, buttons, jewels and metal nose clips on face masks, which are easy for patients and healthcare professionals to identify and remove before MRI, these new tissues can fall under the radar.

‘Although [ACR and FDA] guidelines are in place to prevent thermal injuries from tissue interactions during magnetic resonance imaging, incomplete labeling, failure to follow safety precautions and a lack of awareness still contribute to their occurrence,” wrote authors Tara Styan, University of British Columbia, and Michael Hoff, PhD, University of Washington.

In addition to fabrics containing metallic fibers, the authors also identified certain FR fabrics as potentially problematic, citing an example where a patient’s FR undershirt trapped heat and sweat in her body in a way that caused burning sensation.

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