This site is dedicated to the unfortunate victims who have suffered an MRI burn injury
Hello, my name is John. I live in the small town of Cave Creek, AZ. about 20 miles North of Phoenix. On November 17th, 2016 during a routine scan I suffered an MRI burn injury. Yes, that’s right. You didn’t read it wrong, I was BURNED on an MRI machine. But it wasn’t a contact burn like you might expect from touching something hot. It was a Radio Frequency MRI burn. RF sits at roughly the same frequency as microwave on the frequency spectrum (around 1 megahertz), so think meat cooking in a microwave oven. When you are overexposed to radio frequency radiation it creates a thermal effect and your tissues start to overheat. Because this starts below the skin surface there are fewer nerve endings, so you don’t actually realize you are being ‘cooked’ until it is too late. In my case this happened over a period of about 7 minutes and I can’t begin to describe the outcome. RF MRI burn is particularly insidious in that it doesn’t initially give you a true picture of it’s seriousness. You have the appearance of a bad sunburn and that’s how everyone will treat it. You don’t realize until later that most of the damage occurred well below the skin and what you are seeing is the tip of the iceberg. Months and even years will go by and this won’t heal. In fact over time the underlying damage will start to reflect more and more in your skin’s overall appearance as it becomes scarred, thinned and ‘crepe’ like. This will all be made clearer in my (and other) blog posts on this site. Radio Frequency is considered radiation, but it is called non-ionizing unlike CT and Xray which are ionizing. More on this later.
This blog is dedicated to a small but growing community of victims who have had the misfortune to suffer this horrific injury. Each of us has a different story to tell but as you read through these blogs you will see a common pattern emerge. You will notice how everyone starts out terrified, bewildered and in pain, not realizing what has happened to them. Their immediate reaction is to run to an emergency room, burn center, physician etc., anyone they can think of that can help them. Unfortunately there is little help to be found. I’m sure the following paragraphs will resonate with others who have made this journey.
Doctors will stare at you with disbelieving eyes, claiming MRI machines don’t burn. Dermatologists will look at your skin and if you are lucky will diagnose ‘a thermal burn’, but it is always followed by ‘of unknown origin’. They will not acknowledge that it is an MRI burn and they rarely offer treatment options beyond smearing greasy gels like Aquafor all over your skin (which doesn’t work). This is because even they do not understand the etiology of a non-ionizing radiation burn, the deep tissue damage that can occur and the skin corrosion and scarring you are left with. After cycling through legions of doctors who know little more about Radio Frequency than the average high school physics student, you in desperation start to research things for yourself.
You start to reach out to MRI physicists. These are essentially the scientists who know the inner workings of MRI machines. Machine manufacturers rely on these ‘experts’ to supply the parameters by which safety standards are set. Don’t expect much help here either. These guys may give you the impression initially that they are interested in your case but once they see your pictures and the diffuse aspect of the injury they immediately go on the defensive and start making comments like ‘looks like a rash’ or ‘the reaction you had to the MRI’. Seriously? You don’t think someone knows when they have been burned? Trust me when it happens you don’t sit around thinking to yourself. Gee, I wonder if this is a burn ? Physicists do not want to have to admit that these high powered MRI machines are ‘capable’ of injuring people, so when you ask them this question outright – Is this 3Tesla MRI machine capable of emitting enough radio frequency energy to burn tissue ?, they tap dance around it, quoting various safety precautions and built in programmed shutoff mechanisms that would kick in to prevent injury. This of course doesn’t answer the question, which is somewhat rhetorical anyway since the proof is in the pudding. We are all burnt, the burns happened during MRI procedures ergo the answer is yes, MRI machine ARE capable of burning you.
But why would physicists evade this question? Wouldn’t you think they would be sympathetic, or interested to know about adverse events in case it represents a public health hazard. Here’s my opinion. Let’s think about this – If even one accredited MRI physicist (or doctor, radiologist etc.) were to go out on a limb and admit that under the right circumstances a member of the public could suffer a radio frequency MRI burn injury from overexposure in an MRI machine, it would open a massive can of worms. The generally accepted safety protocols in effect around the world would be thrown into question and scrutinized. The standards provided by the MRI safety experts (physicists) would be discredited. This would establish a precedent for numerous law suits against both radiology facilities and the manufacturers themselves. Facilities would forced to implement thermal monitoring systems in all MRI rooms. Millions of dollars are at stake. It’s far easier to discredit the victims, try to make them believe that the injury couldn’t possibly have happened in this way and hope they just give up. Sweep it under the rug ! Sound like a cover up to you ? This is the pattern we have all experienced – disbelieve, discredit, ignore !
Finally, let’s talk about lawyers for a minute. You’ve been hurt through no fault of your own and you feel someone must be held accountable (not to mention cover your medical costs). You start contacting lawyers and relating your story but soon discover that you won’t have much success here either. 99% of lawyers will disbelieve you like everyone else and dismiss you right out of the gate. They just don’t have enough understanding about the nature of the injury. Even if you do find one that will listen it will inevitably lead to a wild goose chase and come to a rapid stop. More important than whether they believe you or not is the fact that lawyers have a singular agenda, return on investment ! Unless it’s a slam dunk case they will kick it to the curb, and as we all know, ours are far from being slam dunk cases. We are in a small minority and must prove beyond a shadow of a doubt how this horrible thing happened to us. Personal Injury and Medical Malpractice lawyers build their cases by assembling teams of expert witnesses. These are the supposed authorities in their field and their testimony is taken as gospel. They charge huge sums of money for this expertise. And guess who they are ? The same doctors, radiologists, MRI physicists etc. that have been discrediting you all along. Get the picture ?
I’m hoping this blog will encourage others who have been injured in this way to contact me. Perhaps telling your stories to the world will give you some peace of mind. I know it did for me. I would be happy to document your story along with the others already on here. The message I’m trying to convey to you is no matter how much you are ignored or discredited, know this is real and you are not alone. And never give up the fight ! Time heals.
Also, the blog is not intended to dissuade people from seeking medical advice or even from having MRI’s. It is simply a factual chronology of my and other people’s experiences. The objective is to provide a forum for victims to come forward and tell their stories, to raise awareness and and to prove to the the medical and legal community that this is a REAL threat. It is also intended to a be an information repository for the public. After reading these accounts, people having MRI’s will be much more aware and make much more informed decisions. They will know what to be on the lookout for, what is normal and what is abnormal and to press the panic button IMMEDIATELY if something doesn’t feel right. It only takes a few minutes of over exposure to put you in a world of hurt, for a long time!
Finally, I would like to say that there have been a few exceptions to the rule, medical professionals who have shown genuine concern about my condition. I am grateful to them and they know who they are. Their inability to help me was not born out of lack of concern but rather out of ignorance about the type of injury.
I’d like to give a mention to a couple of social media sites that have been extremely useful to me, where I have joined a growing number of people who have suffered the same fate. The first is a Facebook page called MRI Injuries and Side Effects. There are numerous folks on this site that have had an mri burn with various degrees of intensity. In fact I met Donna on this site and she asked me to publish her account on this blog. Start HERE to read her story. The other site is a forum on patient.info called MRI BURNS AND EF SIDE EFFECTS. This site is British I believe but again documents peoples stories who have suffered this horrific injury.
If you would like to view a pictorial chronology of my progress month by month, start with the first month – HERE.
I hope you follow us on this journey. Please click HERE or on the blog tab at the top of the page to get started.