Are MRIs Dangerous? Patient Care & MRI Tech Training

December 7, 2019


Are MRI dangerous – or is it just a fairy tale?

If you’ve ever been inside an MRI scanner, you’ll know that it can be an intimidating experience. Even though there are no recorded harmful effects, patients are often nervous about the negative effects of MRI scans, the small space and loud noise, and having to lay perfectly still. 

Not only does MRI tech training prepare students for technical aspects of their future job, but it also focuses on developing empathy and understanding for patients (especially when it comes to risk prevention and panic attacks). 


Are MRIs Dangerous? 

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) creates a 3-D image representation of tissue, joints, organs, bones, and even gas within the body. The powerful MRI scanner creates a strong magnetic field and radiofrequency which stimulates – and then identifies – how water within cell protons change. When this radiofrequency is shut off, MRI sensors determine how these protons realign themselves, converting them into images.

Unlike x-rays and CT scans, patients are never exposed to radiation during MRIs. This means that the procedure is also safe for the MRI technician who works in close proximity to the scanner.

There Are Some Risks Associated with MRI Scans

Just like any medical test, certain precautions and rules apply when you enter the MRI examination room. This is because MRI magnets are extremely powerful and have to be handled with extreme caution. 

Remove Metal Objects and Electronic Devices 

All metal objects (especially objects containing iron) are prohibited. Patients and MRI techs must remove all jewelry, keys, hairpins, etc. before entering the examination room. Patients may unintentionally bring metal into the exam room via screws, shrapnel, or even bullet pieces left in their bodies. The MRI scanner’s magnet may pull any metal elements out of the body with extreme velocity, causing severe injuries.

The same goes for most medication patches (including nicotine patches) that contain small amounts of aluminum. When exposed to the MRI magnet, these particles will heat up and may cause burns.

The MRI magnet will also disrupt electrical impulses. Devices such as pacemakers, neurostimulators, and insulin pumps may malfunction when exposed to the magnetic field, possibly leading to fatal outcomes.

Claustrophobia and Panic Attacks  Are More Common Than You Might Think

Claustrophobic patients do not feel comfortable in tight spaces and may want to avoid the scan entirely. Some MRI technologists advise their patients to try an open-air MRI. 

Panic attacks are routinely discussed during MRI training programs. Minor distress can be handled with a simple human approach and reassurance. Severe psychological reactions may require the use of medication or even psychiatric intervention.

How to Become an MRI Technologist

 Just Us 3 / Flickr / CC BY-NC 


There are three primary training routes to become an MRI technologist. One option is to obtain a 4-year B.S. in Medical Imaging while another is to complete a radiography degree and add MRI as a specialty later. The most popular option is a certificate or degree program that focuses solely on MRI training. The second option is more specialized, tends to include more hands-on experience, and offers quick certifications that pay well, too.

Each MRI technologist training program has its own enrollment requirements. A high school diploma may be enough for certain programs while others may require some college (or even an associate degree). Some training programs offer evening classes which are convenient for working professionals. That makes this allied health career path a great option if you’re considering a career change.

MRI Training Programs

A comprehensive training program includes classroom instruction, clinical hours, and a clinical internship. Most programs include basic courses in medical terminology, anatomy & physiology, and patient care. Students will also learn about physics, instrumentation, and cross-sectional anatomy. 

Accredited programs (through the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology or American Registry of Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists) include hands-on training using MRI equipment as well as clinical internships in hospitals and/or imaging centers. 

Under the supervision of overseeing radiologists and guidelines of physicians, students will learn how to perform real-life patient examinations using MRI equipment. 

Do MRI Techs Need Certification to Work?

 NTNUmedicine / Flickr / CC BY-NC 


Some states require MRI techs to obtain their state license in order to work. While most states don’t have MRI licensing requirements, successfully completing a training program sets is highly recommended to set techs apart from their competition.

Kickstart Your MRI Tech Career Today! 

If you’re looking for more information about how to become an MRI tech, be sure to check out the AIMS Education MRI Technologist program. Our school representatives look forward to hearing from you!