Potpourri of MRI Safety Statistics

There are a number of startling statistics related to MRI safety that I’ve been wanting to weave into a posting or two. In bits and bites, these data points are interesting, but it’s when they’re taken all together that they tell the greatest story. So, at the risk of writing my driest entry to date, here’s the picture painted by a slew of statistics…

The population of the United States is approximately 300,000,000 (data).
The number of MRI’s performed in the US in 2007 was approximately 27,500,000 (data).
The rate of increasing utilization has been fairly consistent at around 3% per year (data).
If this growth-rate is consistent for 2008, this year there will be approximately 28,300,000 MRI exams in the US.

Based on these recent trends, this means that the odds of a person in the US getting an MRI in 2008 was approximately 1 in 10.6, or a number nearly equivalent to 10% of the US population received MR exams in one calendar year.

The rate of officially-reported MRI accidents has grown from 40, in 2004, to 114, in 2007. (data). This represents an increase of 185% in three years of reporting. This means that the risk of an adverse outcome during an MRI exam has nearly tripled in a three-year period!

And while the gross numbers of officially-reported MRI accidents appear low, it is widely believed by MR safety experts that something on the order of 1% of the actual number of accidents are reported (source), perhaps fewer. The FDA’s numbers are so low, in fact, that the extrapolating numbers reported by those hospitals participating in the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority reporting (not all MRI providers in the state, by the way), Pennsylvania’s reports would appear to represent nearly twice of the total number of MRI accidents in the FDA database (source).

So, if we multiply the FDA’s reports of accidents by two orders of magnitude, a more accurate estimate of the actual number of annual MRI accidents (based on 2007 calendar year reports) would appear to be 11,400. Assuming an equal number of MRI exams (and accidents) each day of the year, this suggests that every day there are, on average, just over 31 MRI accidents per day! This is enough for most states in the Union to have a daily MRI accident.

The upshot of all of this is that if you (or a loved one) are told to get an MRI next year, it’s truly a game of Russian roulette. Has the MRI accident occurred in your state for that day already?

This is the state of things today, but it doesn’t need to remain that way.

There are a number of improvements to be made… but none of them are mysteries. Work with referring physicians to inform them of contraindication risks. Educate patients regarding screenings before they show up at your doorstep. Screen for clinical and physical risk factors. Use ferromagnetic detection. Provide hearing protection. Position patients correctly.

If we do these for each and every MR patient and visitor, we can slash MR accident rates and reduce the aerobatic growth trend, making MRI safer for every patient, including ourselves for our 1 in 10 chance of a 2009 MRI.

Tobias Gilk, President & MRI Safety Director
Mednovus, Inc.

2 thoughts on “Potpourri of MRI Safety Statistics

  1. Traci Redman

    Could you send me statistic on MRI safety? I have been a MRI tech for 13yrs and have done so with out incident. Good screening,good knowledge and being thorough has been my key. Thanks, Traci Redman RT(R)MR ARRT

  2. Tobias Gilk Post author


    Here are a couple resources for you. I hope that these are helpful…


    You can also look up all of the MRI accidents that have been reported to the FDA through their MAUDE website ( http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfmaude/search.cfm ). Just enter product code “LNH” in the appropriate window to search for MRI accidents.

    I hope this helps.

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