The FDA has stated that, while face masks may need to be worn during MRI scans due to Covid-19, some products are not appropriate as they contain metal


MRI scans use strong magnets and radio waves, and can therefore cause radio frequency (RF)-induced heating in metal (Credit: skvalval/Shutterstock)

The US FDA has warned that patients should not wear face masks containing any metal parts or coatings during MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans.

This safety communication came after the regulator received reports of a patient’s face being burned by the metal in a mask they were wearing during one of these diagnostic exams.

The FDA stated that face coverings with metal parts like wire nose pieces, nanoparticles, or antimicrobial coatings containing metals, such as silver or copper, may heat up and cause burns if they are left on.

The FDA also reiterated that, while it is appropriate to wear a mask when having an MRI during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, healthcare providers performing these exams should ensure their patient’s face covering does not contain any metallic objects or components prior to the procedure.

This is because the strong magnets and radio waves used in an MRI scan can lead the metal to undergo radio frequency (RF)-induced heating, and result in injury.

The US regulator said it recently received an injury report for a patient who was wearing a face mask with metal during a 3 Tesla MRI scan of their neck and suffered facial burns consistent with the shape of their mask.

In concluding its safety communication, the FDA said: “Burns from metal objects worn by a patient during an MRI exam are a known issue and patients should not wear any metal during an MRI.

“Given the increased use of face masks during the Covid-19 pandemic, the FDA wants patients and healthcare providers to be aware of the potential risk of face burns related to the use of patient face masks containing metal during an MRI.”

It also stated that the only action it will take at this time is to monitor the issue and keep the public informed if significant new information becomes available – but added that anyone who experiences an adverse event, such as a burn, while wearing a face mask during an MRI should report it to the FDA, as it may help to improve patient safety in the future.