A complex mixture of electromagnetic fields is used in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): static, low-frequency, and radio frequency magnetic fields. Commonly, the static magnetic field ranges from one to three Tesla. The low-frequency field can reach several millitesla and with a time derivative of the order of some Tesla per second. The radiofrequency (RF) field has a magnitude in the microtesla range giving rise to specific absorption rate values of a few Watts per kilogram. Very little attention has been paid to the case where there is a combined exposure to several different fields at the same time. Some studies have shown genotoxic effects in cells after exposure to an MRI scan while others have not demonstrated any effects. A typical MRI exam includes muliple imaging sequences of varying length and intensity, to produce different types of images. Each sequence is designed with a particular purpose in mind, so one sequence can, for example, be optimized for clearly showing fat water contrast, while another is optimized for high-resolution detail. It is of the utmost importance that future experimental studies give a thorough description of the exposure they are using, and not just a statement such as "An ordinary MRI sequence was used." Even if the sequence is specified, it can differ substantially between manufacturers on, e.g., RF pulse height, width, and duty cycle. In the latest SCENIHR opinion, it is stated that there is very little information regarding the health effects of occupational exposure to MRI fields, and long-term prospective or retrospective cohort studies on workers are recommended as a high priority. They also state that MRI is increasingly used in pediatric diagnostic imaging, and a cohort study into the effects of MRI exposure on children is recommended as a high priority. For the exposure assessment in epidemiological studies, there is a clear difference between patients and staff and further work is needed on this. Studies that explore the possible differences between MRI scan sequences and compare them in terms of exposure level are warranted.
Frankel, J., Wilén, J., & Hansson Mild, K. (2018). Assessing Exposures to Magnetic Resonance Imaging’s Complex Mixture of Magnetic Fields for In Vivo, In Vitro, and Epidemiologic Studies of Health Effects for Staff and Patients. Frontiers in Public Health, 6. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpubh.2018.00066