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Don't Get Tagged for Infection Control Deficiencies in the MRI

Evan Sweeney, for HealthLeaders Media, August 4, 2009

MRI technology has recently garnered the interest of those in the C-suite, particularly after the ECRI Institute ranked ultrahigh-field-strength MRIs second on its list of hot technologies for 2009.

HealthLeaders Media first reported on the more powerful MRIs that produce higher quality images in July and although this new technology can greatly improve efficiency and quality, MRI technology old and new poses significant safety risks that often impede infection control (IC) best practices.

For years, many MRI suites in hospitals and outpatient facilities have operated without proper IC procedures, primarily because the dangers of the MRI's magnetic field bar almost all employees from entering the room, says Peter Rothschild, MD, president and founder of Patient Care Systems, Inc., in Newark, CA. As a result, the area has flown under the IC radar.

"Unfortunately, it's an area that has just been ignored," Rothschild says. "I think that's the nicest way to say it."

The dangers of the MRI
Employee safety is one of the main reasons that the MRI suite lags behind in IC and environmental cleaning, says Tobias Gilk, M. Arch, president and MRI safety director at Mednovus, Inc., an MRI safety consulting firm in Leucadia, CA.

Because the MRI houses a powerful magnet (tens of thousands of times more powerful than Earth's magnetic field, according to Gilk), it creates a hazard for those unaware of how it operates.

"We restrict access to it, and a lot of times this means that we restrict access such that infection control officers or chief nursing officers or directors of medical care don't spend the same amount of time or have the same degree of day-to-day oversight for the MRI part of an enterprise that they do for, say, the patient care floors," Gilk says.

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