MRI safety when one has alternate tattoos has been a question since the infamous “Dear Abby” letter back in the 1980’s. The patient with permanent eyeliner had an MRI and felt a “heating up” or burning sensation during the MRI procedure. Is this cause for alarm, or even a reason not to have an MRI if you have tattoos?

Magnetic Resonance Imaging was first discovered by Felix Block and Edward Purcell in 1946, and both were awarded the Nobel Prize in 1952. Inside the late 70’s, the process began evolving to the technology that we use for diagnosing illnesses in medicine today.

Men and women have decorated themselves for hundreds of years by means of makeup, jewelry, clothing, and traditional and cosmetic tattooing. Procedures like eyeliner, eyebrows, lips, eye shadow, and cheek blush are commonly done in the U.S. and around the world. Other procedures known as “para-medical tattooing” are done on scars (camouflage) and cancer of the breast survivors who may have had reconstructive surgery having a nipple “graft” that is certainly lacking in color. In this kind of paramedical work, the grafted nipple produced by the surgeon is tattooed an all natural color to complement the healthy breast.

Magnetic resonance imaging is routinely performed, particularly for diagnosing head, neck and brain regions where permanent cosmetics including eyeliner are normally applied. Due to a few reports of burning sensations inside the tattooed area during an MRI, some medical technicians have questioned whether they should perform MRI procedures on patients with permanent cosmetics.

Dr. Frank G. Shellock has conducted laboratory and clinical investigations in the field of magnetic resonance imaging safety for more than two decades, and has addressed the concerns noted above. Research was conducted of 135 subjects who underwent MR imaging after having permanent cosmetics applied. Of these, only two individuals (1.5%) experienced problems related to MR imaging. One subject reported a sensation of ‘slight tingling’ and the other subject reported a sensation of ‘burning’, both transient in nature. Based on Dr. Shellock’s research, traditional tattoos caused more issues with burning sensations in the region from the tattoo.

It is actually interesting to notice that a lot of allergy symptoms to traditional tattoos begin to occur when an individual is exposed to heat, including exposure to the sun, or time spent in a hot steam room, or jacuzzi tub. Specific ingredients within the tattoo pigments such as cadmium yellow tend to cause irritation in certain individuals. The end result is swelling and itching in jjsegy areas of the tattoo. This usually subsides when being exposed to the warmth source ends. When the swelling continues, then the topical cream can be obtained from the physician (usually cortizone cream) to aid relieve the irritation.

Dr. Shellock recommends that anyone who has permanent makeup should advise their MRI technician. Because “artifacts” can display up on the results, it is necessary for that medical expert to understand what is causing the artifacts. These artifacts are predominantly associated with the presence of pigments designed to use iron oxide or other type of metal and happen in the immediate section of the tattoo or permanent makeup. Additionally, the technician can give the individual a cold compress (a wet wash cloth) to utilize during the MRI procedure inside the rare case of the burning sensation in the tattooed area.

In conclusion, it is clear to view that the benefits of owning an MRI outweigh the slight possibility of a reaction from permanent makeup or traditional tattooing throughout the MRI. The art and science of permanent makeup goes by many people different names: micropigmentation, permanent cosmetics, derma pigmentation, intradermal cosmetics, dermagraphics and cosmetic tattoos. Since the procedures associated with permanent makeup become a little more main stream the public gets to be more aware of the benefits, specifically for individuals who are afflicted by illness, disease, injury or scarring. Inside my recent article “Creating a Bridge: Plastic Surgery and Micropigmentation” I explored your relationship between plastic surgery and permanent makeup. I might now like to discuss how permanent makeup can work within the solution for many different medical ailments.