Is an MRI Scan Safe for Elderly People? Things You Didn’t Know

• Written by @Lifeline24

MRI scans help doctors to diagnose a huge range of medical conditions. They’re also helpful when it comes to planning treatments for patients after diagnosis. As we get older, we’re more likely to encounter health issues and many of us will need an MRI scan at some point in our lives. If you’ve never had one before, you might feel a little apprehensive. You may have questions, such as, ‘Is an MRI safe?’ ‘Are there any side effects?’ ‘Can you have an MRI after a hip replacement or pacemaker?’

Today’s article, from guest blogger Aimee, will give you the answers you need. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know.

What is an MRI Scan?

MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging. An MRI scan is a procedure that allows medical professionals to examine the inside of the body. It works by creating detailed images produced by radio waves and strong magnetic fields. An MRI scanner can be used to take images of various areas of the body, including:

  • Bones
  • Blood Vessels
  • Heart
  • Brain
  • Spinal Cord
  • Internal Organs

How Is An MRI Scan Performed?

When undergoing an MRI scan, the patient will need to lie on a bed that will be moved slowly inside the scanner. The radiographer operating the scanner will be responsible for taking the images via a computer in a separate room. They’ll talk to the patient to tell them what is going on during the scan. As an MRI scanner uses an electric current, patients may be aware of clicks and noises throughout the procedure. It is important to lie as still as possible during an MRI scan in order to ensure the most accurate images possible.

Is MRI Safe For An Elderly Person?

Although the thought of undergoing an MRI scan may seem very overwhelming, especially for an elderly person, there is no need to worry. There have been some concerns in the past that the combination of radio waves and magnetic fields used by an MRI scanner could pose some risk to human tissue and organs, but this has never been proven. Experts agree that MRI scans are completely safe for patients of all ages.

The fear many elderly patients have is the feeling of claustrophobia while inside the scanning machine for long periods. However, this is something that can be discussed with the MRI technician or radiographer beforehand. Let them know if you’re feeling particularly nervous so they can do their best to reassure you. Some radiographers can also allow patients to go into the scanner with their feet first instead of their head, but depending on which areas of the body need to have images taken, this is not always possible.

Is an MRI Painful?

MRI scans are also completely painless, which means that there is no need for sedatives or anaesthesia. This lowers the risk of the procedure, making it even safer for older people. However, there are some risk factors that prohibit certain patients from having a scan.

Risk Factors and Concerns in Patients for MRI Scans

Despite the overall safety of the procedure, there are certain patients for whom an MRI scan could pose a risk, due to the radio waves and magnetic fields. When it comes to elderly people, this could include those who have the following:

  • Pacemaker
  • Metal implants including teeth
  • Artificial joints e.g. hip replacement

If an elderly person has any of these risk factors, an MRI scan would not be recommended. This is because the powerful magnets from the machine could interfere with a pacemaker’s settings, for example. MRI may also be unsuitable for patients who suffer from kidney disease. This is because the radiographer may need to inject a contrast dye in order to create a better image resolution and more accurate detailing. This injection can pose a risk to patients with a history of kidney disease. Elderly patients who have a history of allergic reactions may need to take a blood test before having their scan. This is an MRI safety precaution to rule out the possibility that they may have any allergic reaction to the contrast dye.

What to Do Before an MRI Scan

In preparation for an MRI scan, the radiographer will instruct you to remove all jewellery and watches that may interfere with the scanner’s magnetic field. It is also essential to remove hearing aids, dentures, and any wigs or toupees too. These can often contain traces of metal that could compromise the result of the scan. You may wish to have a friend or family member accompany you to your scan appointment, especially if you are feeling nervous. The whole procedure scan can last up to 90 minutes; as a result, some patients prefer to take a mild sedative first in order to make the experience more manageable. This means they will need assistance with leaving the MRI scan practice once the procedure has been completed.

More Information

For more information about MRI scans, see the NHS website here.

If you are diagnosed with a medical condition after having an MRI scan, you may wish to purchase a personal alarm to give you peace of mind. These life-saving alarm systems ensure that you can always call for help in an emergency. We offer a range of affordable Lifeline alarms, ideal for elderly and disabled people, especially those who live by themselves. To find out more about the Lifeline alarm system and how it can help you, read our helpful guide here or contact our friendly team. You can call us on 0800 999 0400 or get in touch online.

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4 Thoughts On This Blog
Rodrigo Arguelles says:
10/03/2023 at 11:47

My husband is a 76 year old men under dialysis for renal desease. Would he be safe going through this procedure on next coming Tuesday? Personel from dialysis told him not to have this test cause is very risky. I'm very concern. Please answer...

LifeConnect24 says:
13/03/2023 at 8:18

Hello Rodrigo, Thank you for your comment. Our research suggests that the contrast dye used in MRI scans on kidneys can cause damage to the organs. However, we would recommend calling the relevant department at your husband's hospital and making them aware of his condition. They may be able to offer additional advice or information, including alternative tests. We hope this has proved useful. Kind regards, LifeConnect24

Kya says:
31/01/2024 at 4:26

Hi, one of my families is 79 years old and has been found to have meningioma after MRI recently. I'm wondering if there will be any radiation effects on the body if we do MRI again (to avoid mistakes and so on)? And if so, how long would be best to wait for the MRI again? very concern about this,thank you so much

LifeConnect24 says:
01/02/2024 at 9:09

Hello Kya, There will be no radiation effects from MRI as it only uses radio waves and magnetic fields. If no difficulties were experienced during the initial MRI, then there is nothing to worry about in future. We hope this has helped. Kind regards, LifeConnect24

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