Donor Support Helps Find MRI-Safe Implants

David Pennell, M.S., R.T.(MR), CNMT
Apr. 18, 2017
David Pennell

As a magnetic resonance imaging research technologist, it's imperative that I keep up to date about medical implants and the safety issues they pose in performing MR imaging examinations. Every R.T. knows that magnets and metal don’t mix in the radiology department, so when a patient or research participant presents with a metal implant, we have to determine whether it’s safe to perform the procedure. These safety concerns are even more amplified when R.T.s, like me, are performing examinations using a 7-Tesla whole body MR scanner.

Although there are some good reference materials available that evaluate medical implant devices using a 7-Tesla magnet, specifically Dr. Frank Shellock’s Reference Manual for Magnetic Resonance Safety and Devices, little research exists on the topic. This lack of research and information causes many people with medical implants to be denied a 7-Tesla examination and impedes valuable medical advances in treating numerous diseases such as multiple sclerosis.

Seeing this lack inspired and motivated me to do something about it. With the help of Dr. Shellock and my mentor, Dr. Adrienne Dula, I developed a research plan to evaluate some of the most common devices I’ve encountered with research participants who were denied 7-Tesla examinations. My goal was to create a database that health care professionals around the world could reference.

We were eager to begin the project, but one thing was holding it up: a lack of funding. While searching for funding I learned that the ASRT Foundation offered research grants for R.T.-led research projects, so I applied. Fortunately, we received a donor-funded research grant from the Foundation in October 2013. Without generous donors making the grant possible, I’m not sure how we would have been able to conduct our research.

The funds that Foundation donors provided enabled us to purchase the supplies we needed and pay for the use of the 7-Tesla whole body MR scanner. We were fortunate enough to have the different implant devices we were evaluating loaned to use from various companies. We tested each device for translational attraction and torque and, at the end of our study, deemed only five of the 39 devices unsafe in a 7-Tesla environment.

We were ecstatic with the results, but for our research to make a difference, we needed to share it with our professional community. In 2015, the British Institute of Radiology published our results, and that same year we presented them at the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine — The Society for MR Radiographers and Technologists meeting.

Thanks to the support of generous donors, we conducted research that has the power to change lives around the world and affect research in other areas of health care. Because of your generosity, patients with metal implants may some day be able to undergo 7-Tesla MRI scans, and previously impeded research will move forward to affect patients none of us will ever meet.

To everyone who donates to the Foundation, I hope you understand the difference you’re making with each gift you give in support of the profession. For anyone who hasn’t donated to the Foundation yet, I encourage you to do so today. A gift of any size makes a huge difference; after all, it was the collective giving of donors that made the research grant we received possible.