Can You Get An MRI Scan If You Have A Tattoo?

  • Written By Dan Hunter on December 8, 2019
    Last Updated: March 17, 2022

Just under a third of all American citizens bare several tattoos on their bodies. 38% of citizens bare tribal tattoos — a staggering set of statistics. What’s less widely discussed, however, is the things you must consider post-inking — specifically regarding your health and safety.

There may be certain precautions that need to be taken in your daily life. One of these considerations is whether it’s safe to undergo an MRI scan when you have a tattoo.

There are various health and safety matters to think about if you’re planning to get an MRI scan but have a tattoo. Several things could affect your safety, including magnetic radiation, metal interference, iron-oxide adverse reactions, electric currents and energy absorption.

The MRI scan recognized today is named in full as Magnetic Resonance Imaging and is a medical imaging procedure. Its computer imaging system will capture intricate digital images of a body’s physiologic and anatomy structures. 

The MRI does this using:

  • Large and strong magnetic fields
  • Radio waves
  • Computer-imaging system

Getting an MRI With a Tattoo

The tattooing process involves the skin being punctured and ink pigment being inserted into your dermal layer of skin. Research suggests that particles from the ink can spread to other parts of the body through your bloodstream.

Does This Mean Getting an MRI is Unsafe?

Certain types of tattoo ink contain traces of heavy metals such as chromium, nickel and cobalt. This could have potential health risks when in an MRI scanner, yet generally, they’re very safe.

Minor issues could arise with the fact that MRI scanners emit magnetic radiation. This could interfere with metal traces in your body and cause minor health and safety issues.

The researcher Nikolaus Weiskopf found “mild tattoo-related adverse reaction” in his studies. Participants experienced feelings of:

  • Tingling
  • Warmth and tightness

The National Health Service also states that discomfort or heat could be experienced during the MRI scan. The scans could react negatively with iron oxide-based ink pigmentation, causing minor burning. 

Tattoos could be absorbing energy from the MRI scan. Research posted in a medical journal suggested metal compounds could produce electric currents, increasing skin temperature. The result could induce epidermal burning. 

How to Be Safe

Research shows that MRI scans and tattoos may provoke minimal negative reactions, but there are ways to deal with and combat this. These consist of:

Doing Your Research

Ensure you seek out a well-regarded, positively-reviewed and professional tattoo studio. Check that they have the necessary health and safety paperwork. This’ll minimize any chance of unsanitary practice or contaminated ink containing high levels of various heavy metals.

Select a trusted, experienced tattoo artist. You’ll want to ensure they know what they’re doing and that they implement proper practice into their work.

Communicating with Medical Professionals 

Make sure to have a conversation with the radiographer before getting your MRI scan. Explain that you have a tattoo and let them know your concern. They’ll likely reassure you, and tell you not to worry.

Be sure to alert the radiographer immediately if you feel any pain or discomfort during the scan.

The MRI, You, and Your Tattoo

MRI scans are generally extremely safe and are used widely around the world for an array of medical reasons. Although you shouldn’t be too concerned, metal traces in tattoo pigment could have minor adverse effects during an MRI scan.

Ensure you find a reputable tattoo parlor to minimize the risk of contaminated ink or bad practice. It’s also vital to communicate to your radiographer that you have a tattoo before the scan takes place.

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