A Brazilian man died from injuries he received last month when a concealed gun he was carrying discharged near a working MRI machine, hitting him in the abdomen.
The 40-year-old lawyer and gun ownership advocate reportedly retained the gun despite verbal and written requests to remove all metal objects before accompanying his mother into the sweep room.
Leandro Mathias de Novaes took his mother to Laboratório Cura in São Paulo, Brazil for an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) on January 16.
Clinical staff reportedly instructed both de Novaes and her mother to leave all metal items outside the scan room as standard procedure.
“We would like to emphasize that all accident prevention protocols were followed by the Cura team, as is customary in all units,” said a spokesperson for the unit. the telegraph.
“Both the patient and his/her companion were duly instructed regarding the procedures for accessing the examination room and warned about the removal of any and all metallic objects.”
The reason for this simple act is pretty straightforward. To image a body, an MRI uses 1.5 to 3.0 (and sometimes more) tesla of magnetism to force the protons in water molecules to point in roughly the same direction.
A pulse of low energy electromagnetism gives the particles a movement that, depending on the surrounding materials, takes varying times to return to their starting point. This contrast in the proton’s oscillations is then interpreted to provide a detailed picture of its interior.
To give you an idea of how strong this magnetic field is, a fridge magnet is in the range of a few thousandths of a tesla. Some powerful rare earth magnets can be around a single tesla in strength.
So 3 to 7 tesla is not tremendous. But it’s enough for large ferromagnetic items — those made of material that react relatively uniformly in a strong magnetic field — to receive a good pull.
A freak accident in 2001 caused a child’s fatal head injury when an MRI displaced a metal oxygen tank across the room.
In cases of smaller items, like jewelry, for example, the strong magnetic field can create an electrical current in the material that potentially conducts enough heat to cause a nasty localized burn.
Perhaps we will never know exactly what happened in the case of Novaes. Hidden in his waist, the gun went off when the machine was activated, causing an injury that would tragically take his life after several weeks in the Hospital São Luiz Morumbi.
As a gun ownership advocate with thousands of followers on his social media accounts, de Novaes was clearly no stranger when it came to handling a firearm. According to police records, he had a license to carry and the gun was registered.
Whether it was a matter of complacency or forgetfulness is unclear, but the incident serves as a tragic reminder of the fact that MRIs and guns just don’t mix – and not the former either.
A 2002 article in the American Journal of Roentgenology reports the incident of an off-duty police officer who attended an outpatient imaging center in upstate New York, during which a miscommunication led to the patient taking his firearm into the scan room.
As he placed the gun on top of a cabinet about one meter (3 feet) from the machine, the gun was pulled from his hand into the scanner, where it was fired into a wall.
Meanwhile, in 2013, an officer on duty’s gun was pulled from his hand while investigating an overnight report of a burglary at an Illinois MRI clinic, with the firearm remaining attached to the machine.
In 2018, a man suffered leg injuries at a Long Island clinic when a gun in his pocket went off as he entered an MRI room.
While short, this list of dangerous MRI episodes could grow as gun ownership increases in the US, with the possibility of more injuries or even deaths. Several hundred people die each year in the US after unintentionally using a firearm.
Aside from using metal scanners on patients before going into an MRI, there’s little medical staff can do other than touch the sign. ‘All metal’ also means guns, and not following these rules can unfortunately have deadly consequences.