Article from "HEALTH" magazine
September issue 1997
WHEN A TATTOO IS TRULY SHOCKING
Tattoos may be all the fashion on the
streets, but in the doctor's office they could be a pain in the .....side. Or
Recently a 24-year-old woman complaining of back pain was
admitted to Scarborough Grace Hospital. The doctors ordered magnetic
resonance imaging, putting her in the tunnel-like machine that photographs the
body's insides. But as soon as the contraption started up, the woman cried
out, saying she felt a burning pain. When doctors asked her where exactly it
hurt, she pointed to a tattoo on her left hip, a small rose entwined with black
The pain stopped immediately, and the slight swelling subsided
in 12 hours. But Michael Kreidstein a plastic surgeon at the hospital, wondered
what had gone wrong. He requested tattoo inks from a supplier, then tested each
to see if it could be affected by a magnetic field like the one used for MRI.
Two of the inks, one black and one brown, contained so much iron
oxide that droplets of dye could be pulled across a plastic sheet with a common
horseshoe magnet. This ingredient may pose a hazard in an MRI machine,
since magnetic metals can convert its radio-frequency pulses into electricity.
What the young women felt, Kreidstein surmises, was either a weak electric
current coursing through her skin or the pigmented skin being tugged from her
body by the MRI's magnetic pull. Ouch.
It's known that women with permanent eyeliner, which may contain
metals, can suffer swelling and pain from MRI's. But until now no one has
thought to worry about the legions of tattooed hipsters who sooner or later are
going to need a scan. There likely fate? Before her next trip
into the MRI, the 24-year-old patient had to have her tattoo removed.
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