Imaging staffers suffer vertigo, nausea side effects

Hospital and research staff who work with and around MRI machines could be susceptible to side effects associated with the scanner, according to a new study out of the Netherlands. Furthermore, these side effects become more common among healthcare workers working with more powerful scanners.

For the study, published in Occupational & Environmental Medicine, a team of researchers at the Universiteit Utrecht analyzed 361 employees at 14 MRI facilities in the Netherlands. The employees were asked to fill out diaries for the shifts they worked inside and outside the facilities, and were asked to report any symptoms they experienced.

Of those employees who didn't work around MRI machines or weren't working around them on a particular day, just one reported symptoms such as vertigo, nausea, ringing in the ears, a metallic taste in the mouth, and seeing spots. On the other hand, 29 percent of the employees who worked with the strongest MR machine--a 7 Tesla scanner--reported experiencing at least one of those symptoms.

Vertigo and a metallic taste in the mouth were the most common side effects associated with working around MRI machines; employees reported vertigo symptoms in 6 percent of the shifts involving MRI scanners.

"The higher you get exposed, the more frequently these symptoms will occur," study author Hands Kromhout told Reuters Health. "In themselves these symptoms are not hazardous, but you have to realize that it's not very good for your well-being to be nauseous on the job."

Since MRI scanners are becoming more powerful, Kromhout said, it should be expected that more employees will be impacted by these side effects.

As for why healthcare workers and clinicians experience these symptoms, Kromhout said it was unclear, although he postulated that it may be that moving through changing magnetic fields in MRI rooms could create currents in the brain or inner ear.

In January, it was reported that five radiology technologists sued a Tennessee hospital, alleging that they were exposed to excess radiation for several years because the walls in and around the radiology imaging center in the emergency department were built without the required lead shielding.

To learn more:
- read the study in Occupational & Environmental Medicine
- see the article in Reuters Health

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