Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is very safe and most people are able to have the procedure.
But in some instances an MRI scan may not be recommended.
Before having an MRI scan, you should tell medical staff if:
- you think you have any metal in your body
- you're pregnant or breastfeeding
The strong magnets used during the scan can affect any metal implants or fragments in your body.
MRI scans aren't usually recommended for pregnant women.
Although they're thought to be generally safe to use in later pregnancy (after 3 months), it's not known whether the strong magnetic fields have any long-term effects on the developing baby.
Metal implants or fragments
Having something metallic in your body doesn't necessarily mean you can't have an MRI scan, but it's important for medical staff carrying out the scan to be aware of it.
They can decide on a case-by-case basis if there are any risks, or if further measures need to be taken to ensure the scan is as safe as possible.
For example, it may be possible to make a pacemaker or defibrillator MRI-safe, or to monitor your heart rhythm during the procedure.
You may need to have an X-ray if you're unsure about any metal fragments in your body.
Examples of metal implants or fragments include:
- a pacemaker – a small electrical device used to control an irregular heartbeat
- an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) – a similar device to a pacemaker that uses electrical shocks to regulate heartbeats
- metal plates, wires, screws or rods – used during surgery for bone fractures
- a nerve stimulator – an electrical implant used to treat long-term nerve pain
- a cochlear implant – a device similar to a hearing aid that's surgically implanted inside the ear
- a drug pump implant – used to treat long-term pain by delivering painkilling medication directly to an area of the body, such as the lower back
- brain aneurysm clips – small metal clips used to seal blood vessels in the brain that would otherwise be at risk of rupturing (bursting)
- metallic fragments in or near your eyes or blood vessels (common in people who do welding or metalwork for a living)
- prosthetic (artificial) metal heart valves
- penile implants – used to treat erectile dysfunction (impotence)
- eye implants – such as small metal clips used to hold the retina in place
- an intrauterine device (IUD) – a contraceptive device made of plastic and copper that fits inside the womb
- artificial joints – such as those used for a hip replacement or knee replacement
- dental fillings and bridges
- tubal ligation clips – used in female sterilisation
- surgical clips or staples – used to close wounds after an operation
Some tattoo ink contains traces of metal, but most tattoos are safe in an MRI scanner.
Tell the radiographer immediately if you feel any discomfort or heat in your tattoo during the scan.
Page last reviewed: 9 August 2018
Next review due: 9 August 2021