MRI Can Be Painful, Disruptive with Cochlear Implants

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MRI with Cochlear Implants
MRI with Cochlear Implants

(HealthDay News) — Some people with cochlear implants experience pain, discomfort, and problems with the implant's internal magnet when they undergo magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), according to a study published online November 20 in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery.

A team of South Korean researchers tracked the medical records of 18 people with cochlear implants who had MRIs between 2003–2014 at a single medical center. The MRIs included 12 brain scans and 18 scans on other areas of the body.

The researchers found that 13 patients completed their MRI scans without complications. Five patients fitted with protective head bandages could not complete their MRIs due to pain, and one of those patients also experienced displacement of the magnet in the cochlear implant. Another patient with head bandages tolerated pain and discomfort during her third MRI scan, but experienced polarity reversal of the magnet in her cochlear implant.

"Our data clearly demonstrate that a significant proportion of patients experienced discomfort or pain during the MRI process and were unable to complete the scans," the authors write. "Therefore, in addition to device safety and image quality, patient comfort should be considered when performing MRI procedures." The findings should be among the considerations when discussing MRI risks and benefits with people who have cochlear implants, according to Emanuel Kanal, MD, of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, the author of an accompanying editorial.

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