Thinking about getting a tattoo? Do your research first and make sure you are hiring a reputable artist that has great reviews and is hygienic.You do not want to end up with ink in your lymph nodes and potential cancer-like symptoms down the road.
Another concern may be that according to new research, there is some risk for tattooed patients when they are scanned with an MRI.
Tattoo artists use a fine needle to deposit ink below the dermis and epidermis. Most of the colored ink will remain permanently, but not all inks used for tattoos are the same. The ink can differ between colors and also manufacturers. Some people may have an allergic reaction to a certain color ink.
Some inks can be made with lead, titanium dioxide, cobalt, manganese, chromium, zinc, copper, nickel and carbon black. They also can contain ferrous pigments such as iron oxides and this is where an MRI can run into problems.
MRI’s employ powerful magnets which produce a strong magnetic field that forces protons in the body to align with that field. When a radiofrequency current is then pulsed through the patient, the protons are stimulated, and spin out of equilibrium, straining against the pull of the magnetic field.
The concern for people with tattoos is that ferrous inks are magnetic and can react with the strong magnetic fields produced during an MRI. According to the FDA some patients with tattoos can have swelling or burning in the tattoo during an MRI Scan.
Millions of people all over the world have tattoos and have MRIs all the time without incident. A team of researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Germany, and Wellcome Center for Human Neuroimaging at University College London in the UK scanned 330 people with at least one tattoo in an MRI. They analyzed 932 tattoos before and after the scan and found that the majority of people did not notice any side effects.
In a 2005 report in the American Journal of Nursing found that ferrous inks in tattoos can result in artifacts on the image which makes the image not readable.
So, the takeaway is that when considering getting a tattoo, make sure you speak to the artist and find out what the ink ingredients are before you start. The wrong ink may result in either a painful tattoo or a bad image on your next MRI.
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Meet the author: Vikki Harmonay