Body Piercing Jewelry and MRI Safety

Ritual or decorative body piercing is extremely popular as a form of self-expression. Different types of materials are used to make dermal or body piercing jewelry including ferromagnetic and nonferromagnetic metals, as well as nonmetallic materials. The presence of body piercing jewelry that is made from ferromagnetic or conductive material may present a problem for a patient referred for a magnetic resonance (MR) procedure or an individual in the MR environment.

Risks include uncomfortable sensations from movement or displacement that may be mild-to-moderate depending on the site of the body piercing and the ferromagnetic qualities of the jewelry (e.g., mass, degree of magnetic susceptibility, etc.). In extreme cases, injuries may occur.

For body piercing jewelry made from electrically conducting material, there is a possibility of MRI-related heating that could cause excessive temperature increases if the jewelry is located in the area of the transmitted RF, However, the risk of excessive heating of body piercing jewelry is relatively low considering the size and shape of most items used for piercings.

Because of potential safety issues, metallic body piercing jewelry should be removed prior to entering the MR environment. However, patients or individuals with body piercings are often reluctant to remove their jewelry. Therefore, if it is not possible to remove metallic body piercing jewelry, the patient or individual should be informed regarding the potential risks.

If the body piercing jewelry is made from ferromagnetic material (a powerful handheld magnetic may be used to test the jewelry), some means of stabilization (e.g., application of adhesive tape or bandage) should be used to prevent movement or displacement of the object.

Prior to the MRI exam, the patient should be instructed to immediately inform the MRI Tech/Radiographer if heating or other unusual sensation occurs in association with the body piercing jewelry.

According to Muensterer (2004), even temporary or short-term piercing jewelry removal may lead to closure of the subcutaneous tract. Therefore, temporary replacement with a nonmetallic spacer may be indicated. This can be accomplished using the following procedure, as it was applied to umbilical piercing jewelry: (1) Disinfect the piercing and umbilical area with 70% isopropyl alcohol, (2) Open the piercing jewelry by removing the bead from the bar, (3) Place the tip of a tight-fitting intravenous catheter (14 or 16 gauge, without the needle) over the threaded tip of the bar, (4) Advance the intravenous catheter caudally, pushing the piercing out of the skin tract, and (5) Remove the jewelry and leaving the intravenous catheter in the subcutaneous skin tract as a spacer. After the intervention (or MRI examination), reinserted the umbilical piercing jewelry by following the described steps in reverse. Piercing jewelry located in other areas on the body may be replaced for MR examinations in the same way, with minor modifications. Of course, the above procedure should only be performed under the guidance and direction of a physician.


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