FDA cautions about not wearing face masks with metal during MRI exams

Dec. 9, 2020

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a safety communication that informs patients and healthcare providers that 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.

Metal parts, like nose pieces sometimes called nose clips or wires, nanoparticles (ultrafine particles), or antimicrobial coating that may contain metal (such as silver or copper), may become hot and burn the patient during an MRI. The FDA recommends patients wear face masks with no metal during MRIs.

The FDA recently received a report that a patient’s face was burned from the metal in a face mask worn during an MRI. The FDA reminds patients and providers that patients should not wear any metal during an MRI.

It is appropriate for a patient to wear a face mask for an MRI exam during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, before the MRI begins, healthcare providers who perform MRI exams should confirm the face mask has no metal. Some face masks have metal strips to help shape the mask to the face of the user, nanoparticles, or antimicrobial coating, which may contain metal (for example, silver or copper). The metal could result in radio frequency (RF)-induced heating. This may represent a hazard for MR imaging during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The FDA received an injury report for a patient who was wearing a face mask with metal during a 3 Tesla MRI scan of the neck. The report describes burns to the patient’s face consistent with the shape of the face mask.

Burns from metal objects worn by a patient during an MRI exam are a known issue and patients should not wear any metal during an MRI. Given the increased use of face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic, the FDA wants patients and health care providers to be aware of the potential risk of face burns related to the use of patient face masks containing metal during an MRI.

FDA has the safety communication.