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Fatal MRI accident raises serious safety questions

Having to undergo magnetic resonance imaging -- or an MRI as it is otherwise known -- can prove to be a frightening prospect for even the most stoic patient. In the majority of cases, the patient must lie down on a sliding table and be rolled forward into an extremely narrow tube that would make virtually anyone feel claustrophobic. The machine then uses a magnetic field and radio wave energy to create incredibly accurate pictures of designated areas of the body.

As if this entire process wasn't disconcerting enough, there does exist the possibility that something can go terribly wrong with an MRI if hospital officials fail to take the necessary precautions.

Consider an incident just last week in the nation of Sri Lanka, where a five-year-old girl was killed after an MRI machine malfunctioned.

According to reports, a loud explosion was heard a short time after the girl was placed in the machine and she was later rushed to the intensive care unit. Sadly, she could not be revived and died of oxygen deprivation.

An expert here in the U.S. theorized that the likely cause of the fatal accident was cryogen gas escaping from the machine and displacing oxygen in the room.

While you may be quick to dismiss this as something that couldn't possibly happen here in the U.S. where we have enumerable safety regulations, guess again.

Experts have indicated that there have been nearly 10,000 "incidents" involving MRI machines throughout the nation.

One of the more notorious incidents occurred back in 2001, when a six-year-old boy was killed after someone mistakenly left a metal oxygen tank in the testing room. Here, the tank was drawn into the magnetic field of the MRI machine and struck the child in the head.

This tragic accident served as something of a wakeup call in the U.S., leading the American College of Radiology to release a new set of safety regulations.

However, experts indicate that the number of MRI-related incidents have started climbing in recent years.

"If there was a high profile accident today --god forbid -- there would be a lot of really uncomfortable people having to answer questions about how we let protective measures sit on the shelf," said one expert.

Remember, it you have suffered serious injuries or lost a loved one because a hospital failed to take even the most basic safety steps, you do have options. You don't have to suffer needlessly because of their unforgivable mistakes.

Source: Dot Med Daily News, "5-year-old dies in MRI accident," Carol Ko, Feb. 13, 2013

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