The Joint Commission recently issued a Sentinel Event Alert that urged hospitals and ambulatory care centers to pay special attention to preventing accidents and injuries that can occur during MRI scans.

According to the alert, through the course of the last 10 years, the Food and Drug Administration has received nearly 400 reports of MRI-related accidents, with more than 70 percent of them being burns. Ten percent of injuries occurred when metal objects, such as ink pens, cleaning equipment and oxygen canisters, became “missiles” when pulled into the scanner’s magnetic field.

More than 10 million MRI scans are performed each year in the United States.

“MRI technology represents an important advance in diagnostic medicine, but special care must be taken to protect patients,” said Mark R. Chassin, M.D., M.P.P., M.P.H., president, The Joint Commission.  “The increasing use of MRI scans as a diagnostic tool, coupled with stronger MRI technology, suggests that the risk of accident and injury may increase. This alert offers health care organizations specific steps that can be taken to keep patients safe.”

Among its suggestions to reduce the risk for MRI injuries to patients, the Joint Commission’s advised that health care institutions create safe zones that restrict access to all MRI sites, per the recommendation of the American College of Radiology, and use trained screeners to double-check patients for metal objects.