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FDA: Face Masks With Metal Are Not Safe in an MRI Machine

Nurse adjusting MRI scanner for patient.

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Key Takeaways

  • The FDA is warning that face masks containing metal can cause injury in an MRI machine.
  • The FDA received a report of a patient who was burned after using a face mask with metal during an MRI.
  • Your MRI operator should be able to provide you with a metal-free mask if needed.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning about wearing face masks that contain metal when undergoing an MRI.

Patients may be injured if they wear face masks (such as surgical or non-surgical masks and respirators) with metal parts and coatings during a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) exam,” the warning says. The FDA specifically states that metal parts like nose pieces, nanoparticles (i.e. ultrafine particles), or antimicrobial coating that may contain metal “may become hot and burn the patient during an MRI."

As a result, the organization “recommends patients wear face masks with no metal during MRIs.”

The FDA says the warning was issued after the organization received a report that a patient’s face was burned from metal in their face mask during an MRI. The FDA specifically issued the following recommendations to patients and caregivers:

  • Do not wear a face mask containing metal parts, like a bendable nose piece or staples on the headband, nanoparticles, or antimicrobial coating that may contain metal, when having an MRI. You may not be able to tell whether your mask may have metal in it. Ask the person performing the MRI to confirm that the face mask you will wear does not contain metal parts.
  • If you are burned by your face mask during an MRI, please report the event to the FDA. Your report, along with data from other sources, can provide information that helps improve patient safety.

The FDA also urges healthcare providers who perform MRIs to “continue to screen all patients for MRI safety, including looking for metallic objects, prior to MRI examinations.”

What This Means For You

If you’re planning to get an MRI, avoid wearing a mask with a metal nose bridge or metal detailing. But, if you forget or aren't sure if your mask contains metal, your MRI operator should remind you and provide you with a metal-free mask.

How To Stay Safe During an MRI

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a medical imaging procedure that is used to make images of the internal structures of the body, the FDA explains. MRI scanners use strong magnetic fields and radio waves to make images.

While the FDA says that MRIs are considered an “exceedingly safe modality,” there is an “underlying potential for injury” due to the strong electromagnetic fields used during scanning. These electromagnetic fields will yank metal toward it, which makes any metal objects around MRI machines potentially dangerous.

The risk of burns is real, Jeremy Szymanowski, MD, a radiologist at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in California, tells Verywell. “If you have a metal nose bridge in your mask or metal detailing, the MRI can send heat and electricity through it and burn you,” he says.

In general, Szymanowski says, “the larger the piece of metal, the higher the chance of a worse outcome.”

Having metal in your mask doesn’t just have the potential to burn you: It can also “pull the mask off your face or into a weird area” or cause the metal to show up on the MRI, making it un-usable, Szymanowski says.

If you have metal in your mask, don’t worry: Your MRI operator should be able to help. “We have masks available at every MRI scanner in the enterprise," Deborah LaBrie, director of MRI operations for UCLA Health, tells Verywell. "We have removed the metal strip from each mask,”

If you forget, the person conducting your MRI should ask you about any potential metal on your body, including in your face mask. “Just be aware this could be an issue,” Szymanowski says.

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  1. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Wear face masks with no metal during MRI exams: FDA safety communication. Updated December 7, 2020.

  2. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Updated August 29, 2018.

  3. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) safety and effectiveness. Updated May 9, 2018.