d h e e dai

    Just wondering why I can’t have MRI if I have a Tattoo..and why does it have lead content?It’s only ink ,right?


    i have tattoos and i have had numerous mri’s. waaaaaaay back when some of the black inks used had lead or other metal parts in them.


    I saw that on mythbusters once – there is no lead in tattoo ink, but there is iron. It wasn’t enough to cause any damage to your skin though.

    Cecilia M

    Depends. About 20 years ago and further, tattoo ink was sometimes comprised of small fragments of metal as well as other ingredients. This was long before tattoos were ever regulated and before more serious thought was given as to the safety of tattoo ink ingredients. Some MRI patients who have had tattoos that dated back far enough to have received ink that contained metal bits have reported slight discomfort to severe pain during an MRI scan.

    It is purported that the reason for this was that the magnetic force pulled on the metallic fragments so violently that it caused a burning sensation in the location of the tattoo. I have heard some theorize that this may have been caused by built up friction between the particles, and some say that the magnetic force was actually tearing at the skin as the fragments were pulled and attempted to actually break away from the skin. I don’t know which, if either, is true; however, even if there is no pain at all, these fragments can cause artifacts, which is the technical term used for distortions in MRI scans. Artifacts can render a scanned image useless, requiring that the procedure be done again or even an alternate procedure be used to acquire accurate information. So, at the very least, you could be stuck with a very expensive bill for nothing -if, of course, your tattoo actually contains these metal particles.

    How can you know if your tattoo contains metal? Well, there is no really easy way to know for sure unless you have access to a very high-powered metal detector. But don’t fret – if your tattoo was obtained within the past 20 years you are almost assured that this is not going to be an issue for you. Even if your tattoo is older than 20 years old, that doesn’t mean the ink absolutely contained metal. And even if it did contain metal, that does not mean you absolutely will have a problem with getting an MRI. If you find yourself at this juncture, it will be best for you to inform your doctor of your concerns and let them help you make an informed decision. Remember that there are always alternatives to MRI – people with pacemakers and metal implants (among other things) also have to find other diagnostic methods. Your doctor can help you decide if you might be at risk and, if so, what alternate options are available to you.


    I saw that on mythbusters too. They tattooed a pig and then put it in the MRI. It did not do anything. You should be fine.

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