However, there is another concern—and one that depends on the professionalism and thoroughness of medical professionals and support staff to prevent injuries not from radiation—but from the powerful magnetic forces impacting metallic objects.
In most cases doctors, nurses and support staff are extremely careful about managing MRI cases and the immediate environment, to ensure there are no metallic objects that could serve as instant projectiles, or cause harm to a patient internally.
But there have been horrendous accidents over the years.
In 2001 a six-year-old boy was killed after an oxygen tank, inexplicably brought into the MRI chamber, became magnetized and flew through the air at 20 to 30 feet per second, fatally fracturing the boy's skull.
Even paperclips can become instant projectiles, causing injury in the MRI room. One patient who neglected to pull a hairpin out of her hair prior to her MRI, required surgery to remove the hairpin after it was propelled up her nose and lodged in her pharynx.
One patient died after an implanted aneurysm clip in her brain was dislodged by the powerful magnetic force of the MRI.
In Rochester New York, in 2000, as a police officer was standing close by, the MRI machine pulled the gun from his hand and the gun fired—luckily—into a wall. No one was injured.
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But in a study concerning the potential damage of oxygen tanks, according to a New York Times article from 2001, researchers found that there were five such accidents within a 15-year window, but four occurred during the previous three years 1999 to 2001—mostly involving patients on life support who had been wheeled into an MRI room with an oxygen tank nearby.
Of the various MRI health risks, projectiles are rarely talked about—probably because the incidents are rare. To that end Dr. Gregory Chaljub, a radiologist at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston and the study's primary researcher, maintained in The New York Times article, "MRI is safe, but if something goes wrong, it can go very wrong."