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19 December 2011

A European Directive intended to protect people who work with Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) may have the effect of stopping the use of MRI for up to 60,000 patients a year, especially children.

The European Union Physical Agents Directive (EU PAD) is intended to protect people who frequently come into contact with electro magnetic fields in the course of their work.

But radiographers who oversee MRI procedures are opposed to the directive because they say that they and their patients are already adequately protected by other legislation and guidelines.

“Most EU countries, including the UK, have agreed that there should be an exemption for healthcare staff working in MRI,” said Richard Evans, the chief executive officer of the Society of Radiographers.

“However, some member states are pressing for all people whose work brings them into contact with electro magnetic fields, including MRI, to be included. This is despite the findings of a study commissioned by the EU that said compulsory compliance with the directive would hamper the use of MRI,” he continued.

“If EU PAD is adopted, radiographers and others would not be able to work in an MRI environment in certain circumstances. This would have the effect of stopping the delivery of certain MRI diagnostic procedures, particularly for key groups such as children.”

Exposure to the electro magnetic fields generated by an MRI scanner is not usually an issue for radiographers and others because they do not need to be in the room where the machine is located whilst the patient is being scanned. However, there are procedures such as when some children are being examined, that do require the radiographer to be present. Other instances include patients who need an anaesthetic to be administered whilst the scan is taking place, which means that someone needs to be in the room with the patient.

There also would be an impact on medical research because MRI researchers often remain in the room when carrying out scans to observe what is taking place.

“In the UK there are clear procedures to cover these instances to ensure that patients receive the MRI scans needed to aid accurate diagnosis without exposing health professionals to dangerous levels of electro magnetic exposure,” Mr Evans said.

“There is lobbying of the countries which are opposing an exemption – Poland, Germany and Italy amongst others – but the 30 April 2012 deadline for the directive to be approved by the EU Council of Ministers and the European Parliament is fast approaching.”

Notes for Editor

Magnetic resonance imaging is a key diagnostic tool and is used widely throughout the National Health Service. It is estimated that there are more than 2.5 million MRI procedures carried out in the UK each year. An MRI machine generates powerful radio waves that can provide clear images of parts of the body that are surrounded by bone tissue, so the technique is useful when examining the brain and spinal cord. MRI scans may also provide highly detailed images of the heart and the surrounding blood vessels, as well as other organs such as the liver, kidneys and spleen. The proposed EU PAD Directive can be viewed at For further information contact Richard Evans on 020 7740 7202, or Dominic Deeson on 01227 469060 or 0795 784 5238.

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