Tattoos and MRI Problems

Tattoos and MRI Problems
By: Wendy Ray

Everyone knows that tattoos are permanent unless you want to go through surgery to remove them, but yo

u may not know the lasting effects certain tattoo inks may have on your health. Some red inks used in tattoos are high in iron oxide. Technologist Mary Craven at Southeast Hospital says it can make a common procedure pretty painful!

Simple to complicated, if you're interested in getting a tattoo you can get about anything you want, but Craven says you may want to think twice about a tattoo with red ink. She says red inked tattoos can cause some discomfort for patients when they get a MRI. "We have had complaints of an area of a tattoo warming up and sometimes burning a patient," Craven says. "We always give a patient a squeeze ball as an alarm, if they feel the burning they should let us know immediately."

Craven says of all her patients with tattoos, only one has had to stop the MRI because of the burning sensation. Tattoos don't interfere with the MRI, they can just make them uncomfortable. "Anytime you have metal in a magnetic field with high frequency radio waves, they're going to heat up and burn and I don't think many people realize it," Craven says.

Tattoo artist Karl Ketchum says red inks used to be a red flag for reactions, but they've become more stable. "I've yet to have had any report of ink reaction of reds in the last 8 years that I know of. Anytime I did have a problem it was with a dark plum red," Ketchum says.

Ketchum says there are a lot of pigments out there. He says the ones he uses are safe and organic. Technologist Mary Craven says permanent tattoo eye liner and body piercings can also cause some discomfort when you get a MRI.