How Safe Is An MRI, Really?


When it comes down to it, medical procedures are a little bit like snowflakes. No two procedures are exactly the same. Some are more difficult than others, some are more expensive than others. Some take minutes to recover from, and some take months to recover from. Some are more expensive than others, and some are—of course—more dangerous than others.

As a patient, it’s always important to understand just what to expect before you schedule a procedure. Over time, we’ve noticed that the most commonly scheduled procedure is the good old MRI. When you think about it, it’s not that surprising. In the US alone, there are approximately over 30 million MRI’s performed each year. That’s crazy, right?
Medical imaging procedures like MRI, CT, and x-ray have become increasingly common over the past decade or so. No one blinks twice when they’re told they might need one, and they’re accepted as pretty routine procedures. This still begs the question, though, “just how safe are these ‘routine’ procedures?” Just because something is common doesn’t mean that it can’t be dangerous, and we get a lot of patients who are wondering this very thing. How safe is an MRI, really?

The biggest MRI safety concern patients typically perceive is the danger from radiation. They’re afraid getting an MRI will give them cancer because they’ll be exposed to high levels of radiation. It’s a pretty common fear, and it’s completely unfounded. Most people don’t realize that unlike with other medical imaging procedures like CT or x-ray, patients undergoing an MRI scan are never exposed to radiation. The procedure is completely magnet based, so there’s not even any radiation involved.  That brings us back to our original question. If there’s no risk of radiation exposure, then how safe is an MRI?
The answer? Unless you’re iron man or you accidentally left your belly button ring in, MRI’s are actually incredibly safe. The procedure itself requires no surgical incisions, so there’s no risk of infection. There’s absolutely zero recovery time, which is a pretty big deal when it comes to medical procedures. The only real danger presented by an MRI machine is the powerful magnetic field of the machine, which attracts iron-containing objects towards it faster than Harry Potter yelling “accio bracelet!” If you’ve got objects with iron anywhere on or in your body, you may be in for an unpleasant surprise if you don’t remove them before starting the procedure. That’s why they give you those lovely pre-procedure instructions, though!

So if you’re someone who’s got a script but has been putting off scheduling an MRI scan because you’re unsure how dangerous or scary the procedure might be, don’t be nervous! MRI’s are one of the least dangerous medical procedures out there, and we take extreme measures to make sure that each and every imaging center on our site provides the highest quality care and customer service possible, especially when in comes to MRI scans.