27.5 million people… That’s how many people the healthcare market research company IMV estimates received MR exams in the US in 2007. Other estimates put the number over 30 million, but regardless of whichever number you use, we’re talking about a lot of people (27.5 million is roughly equivalent to those living inside all of the 13 most populous cities in the US)!
And when I say that these millions of people don’t want the 175% raise they’ve received, I’m not referring to their salary. No, the raise that these millions of people got — and most definitely don’t want — is in the rate of MRI accidents!
Actually, the rate of increase in MRI accidents from 2004 is a mind-blowing 185%. But if we allow for a 10% growth in accidents to coincide with the 10% growth in patient volume over the three-year period ending in 2007, we still wind up with a net increase of 175%.
Given the growth in MR imaging, odds are good that a relative or acquaintance of yours will have an MRI in 2009. Is it acceptable that this person has nearly a three-times greater chance of being the victim of an MRI accident than just 4 years ago?
All manner of accidents are reported (burns, tinitus, near-field effects), but projectile accidents are conspicuously under-represented in the FDA’s numbers. And given the flurry of pictures of projectile accidents and the accounts of MRI safety experts who are often called to give tesimony in projectile accident legal action, many believe that this trend applies to what are likely the most common types of MRI accidents… ferromagnetic materials brought into the magnet room.
Many of the reported MRI accidents can be prevented through a more effective implementation of existing policies and procedures. Ferromagnetic projectiles, however, often seem to find their way into the magnet room courtesy of people who are unaware that the object presents a risk. Would asking the unaware person prevent the accident? Would it help prevent the accident that is caused by the person who willfully ignores the screening instructions?
Treating patients like prisoners, subject to strip-searches, is clearly not the way to go, not when there are technological tools at our disposal, just waiting to be put into use.
Ferromagnetic detection systems can provide valuable feedback to aid in the screening of the unaware, the uncooperative, and those who — for whatever reason — can’t participate effectively in their own screening.
Combining ferromagnetic detection with improved education and conformance to existing policies and procedures can help to make a dramatic improvement in overall patient safety.
And for providers who are responding to reimbursement cuts by looking for their own raise in patient volumes, we need to make sure that increasing financial pressures don’t further exacerbate what is already an unacceptable safety trend. Ferromagnetic detection should be a part of the screening for every person approaching the MRI magnet, every single time.Tobias Gilk, President & MRI Safety Director Mednovus, Inc. Tobias.Gilk@Mednovus.com www.MEDNOVUS.com