Ritual or decorative body piercing is extremely popular as a form of self-expression. Different types of materials are used to make body piercing jewelry including ferromagnetic and nonferromagnetic metals, as well as nonmetallic materials. The presence of body piercing jewelry that is made from ferromagnetic or conductive material of a certain shape may present a problem for a patient referred for a magnetic resonance (MR) procedure or an individual in the MR environment.
Risks include uncomfortable sensations from movement or displacement that may be mild-to-moderate depending on the site of the body piercing and the ferromagnetic qualities of the jewelry (e.g., mass, degree of magnetic susceptibility, etc.). In extreme cases, serious injuries may occur. In addition, for body piercing jewelry made from electrically conducting material, there is a possibility of MRI-related heating that could cause excessive temperature increases and burns.
Because of potential safety issues, metallic body piercing jewelry should be removed prior to entering the MR environment. However, patients or individuals with body piercings are often reluctant to remove their jewelry. Therefore, if it is not possible to remove metallic body piercing jewelry, the patient or individual should be informed regarding the potential risks. In addition, if the body piercing jewelry is made from ferromagnetic material, some means of stabilization (e.g., application of adhesive tape or bandage) should be used to prevent movement or displacement.
To avoid potential heating of body piercing jewelry made from conductive materials, it is recommended to use gauze, tape, or other similar material to wrap the jewelry in such a manner as to insulate it (i.e. prevent contact) from the underlying skin. The patient should be instructed to immediately inform the MR system operator if heating or other unusual sensation occurs in association with the body piercing jewelry.
According to Muensterer (2004), even temporary or short-term piercing jewelry removal may lead to closure of the subcutaneous tract. Therefore, temporary replacement with a nonmetallic spacer may be indicated. This can be accomplished using the following procedure, as it was applied to umbilical piercing jewelry: (1) Disinfect the piercing and umbilical area with 70% isopropyl alcohol, (2) Open the piercing jewelry by removing the bead from the bar, (3) Place the tip of a tight-fitting intravenous catheter (14 or 16 gauge, without the needle) over the threaded tip of the bar, (4) Advance the intravenous catheter caudally, pushing the piercing out of the skin tract, and (5) Remove the jewelry and leaving the intravenous catheter in the subcutaneous skin tract as a spacer. After the intervention (or MRI examination), reinserted the umbilical piercing jewelry by following the described steps in reverse. Piercing jewelry located in other areas on the body may be replaced for MR examinations in the same way, with minor modifications. Of course, the above procedure should only be performed under the guidance and direction of a physician.
Armstrong ML, Elkins L. Body art and MRI. Am J Nurs 2005;105:65-6.
Deboer S, Seaver M, Angel E, Armstrong M. Puncturing myths about body piercing and tattooing. Nursing 2008;38:50-54.
Laumann AE, Derick AJ. Tattoos and body piercings in the United States: A national data set. J Am Acad Dermatol 2006;55:413-21.
Muensterer OJ. Temporary removal of navel piercing jewelry for surgery and imaging studies. Pediatrics 2004;114:e384-6.
Shellock FG. MR safety and body piercing jewelry. Signals, No. 45, Issue 2, pp. 7, 2003.