MRI scanners can capture images of any body part (e.g., the brain, abdomen, joints, etc.) in any direction. These machines offer better contrast in soft tissues and physiological and functional imaging over other radiological imaging modalities, making them popular in healthcare. According to the 2013 MR Market Outlook Report, over 11,000 MRI scanners were used in over 8,000 hospital and non-hospital locations in the United States.
The present situation necessitates healthcare workers to become more familiar with MRI safety to protect patients and other healthcare workers from potential risks. The radiologists, the referring physicians, and the MR technologists must be able to assess MRI safety and compatibility of medical devices and implants, as they are often the first health care professionals to discuss the risks of MRI and its safety with patients.
Here are some ways hospital management can follow to improve safety in MRI rooms and increase patient comfort and satisfaction.
1. Screening patients properly
Hospitals must ensure all patients and staff are screened for potential hazards before being allowed into MRI suites.
MRI staff must be aware how to examine the patient properly to prevent materialistic factors from causing unsuitable results. For proper screening, ensure staff will screen all patients twice, once after the form is completed and once before taking those into the MRI scan room.
2. Comfort and safety of patient
The department must ensure that patients are as comfortable during their examinations as possible. Try to provide patients with a leg cushion to support their back; if they feel cold, provide them with a warm blanket. Additionally, make sure the scanner has proper ventilation and lighting to make them more comfortable.
Moreover, arrange MRI transport equipment for patients unable to walk or stand. These include MRI wheelchairs, walkers, stretchers, etc., so patients can be easily transferred in and out of the MRI suite. Hospitals can even invest in non-magnetic products of better quality to maintain the highest standards of healthcare.
3. Implement the call ball technique
The MRI technician must give the patient a “call ball” during the examination. Using this ball, they can communicate with the MRI technologist throughout the process.
When the patient squeezes the ball, it alerts the technician to stop the exam temporarily and exit the scanner. It allows patients to speak with their technologist about any concerns they have, such as whether they wish to complete the exam or not. If they have second thoughts about taking the exam, the technologist can discuss alternative options with them.
4. Be there to relax the patient
The MRI technologist must always maintain visual contact with the patient. It is important to inform the patients beforehand that the door between the MRI scanner and the MRI technician will remain closed. Still, the technologist always has visual contact with the patient through the large glass window between them.
Before the examination, The MRI technologist should answer any questions patients might have regarding their test. Providing the patient with information about their MRI will hopefully give them greater peace of mind and a better understanding of what experience they will go through.
5. Identify high-risk patients before examination
Claustrophobic people fear enclosed or small spaces because they have a persistent and excessive fear of them. Exposure to an enclosed or small space, such as that found in MR systems, often causes an immediate anxiety response, which, in its most extreme form, is indistinguishable from a panic attack.
According to the research, 13% of Americans who attempt to undergo MR procedures face panic attacks due to severe distress or claustrophobia. Asking patients to practice mental exercises as a method of handling it is one way to deal with the situation.
Additionally, the MRI technologist should monitor patients throughout the procedure to make them feel comfortable. Before the procedure starts, let them know there is a technologist on the other side of the window. Try to break their illusion that they are in a confined space and their exam is conducted in a large room.
Breathing techniques can also help in alleviating claustrophobia. Shallow and quick breathing may seem comforting, but it makes things worse; instead, tell them to breathe slowly.
They may also benefit from having a support system to help them get through the exam. Family members or friends usually accompany patients into the MRI room. Even holding a patient’s hand or patting them on the knees can be a way to let them know that they’re not alone. But if the patient still feels anxiety and stress during the exam, then general anesthesia would be the last option to perform the MRI.
6. Train staff properly
It is required that every member of the MRI procedure receives a minimum level of training based on what zones they normally enter.
Staff who receive proper and necessary training are better prepared to perform their responsibility. MRI suite training will help volunteers, research personnel, and staff who operate the scanner on a daily basis so they can ensure the safety of patients and the quality of exam results.
Additionally, keeping up with changes to regulations and guidelines is essential to ensuring patient and caregiver safety.
7. Be mindful of segmentation
There are four safety zones within MRI facilities, ensuring only authorized individuals should be allowed access to the MRI environment. The segmentation is as follows:
- Zone 1: No hazards are associated with the magnet field, such as the MR facility’s entrance.
- Zone II: This zone is restricted through physical barriers by coded doors.
- Zone III: This zone is restricted by physical barriers, such as locked doors.
- Zone IV: The Magnet Room. A trained MRI technician must supervise all individuals in the scan room. When the scanner room door is unattended, it is always locked.
It is important to follow this division carefully, as they can minimize the risk of projectile accidents and implant-related injuries during MRIs.
In formulating, communicating, and implementing safety policies and procedures for MRI, providers need to be vigilant. The safety of the MRI suite should always be at the top of the priority list. Aside from that, patient comfort is also an important consideration. Increasing compliance and improving safety is a direct result of better comfort. The opportunity to address both sides of the coin is a clear win for both parties: patients and technologist.