Skin Patches May Be Risky During MRI
FDA Says Some Patches May Cause Burns During MRI
March 5, 2009 -- The FDA today advised patients undergoing MRI (magnetic resonance
imaging) scans to tell their doctor if they're wearing any medicated skin
patches, in order to avoid burns at the patch site.
Some skin patches contain aluminum or other metals in their non-adhesive
backing, which is the part of the patch that doesn't touch the skin. That
little bit of metal can conduct electricity and cause a skin burn at the patch
site during an MRI scan.
The FDA has received "fewer than half a dozen" reports of skin burns
in patch wearers undergoing MRI, Sandra Kweder, MD, deputy director of the the
FDA's Office of New Drugs, said today at a news conference. Those burns, which
were all reported in nicotine patch wearers, weren't serious; they were likened
to a severe sunburn at the patch site,
Kweder estimates that less than a quarter of all medicated skin patches
contain metal. The FDA is creating a list of those patches, as well as a note
that would go on the patch itself, which might read "Remove before
In the meantime, Kweder says patients should tell their doctor about their
skin patch when referred for an MRI and get advice about removing the patch
before MRI and replacing it afterward. Patients should also mention it to the
staff at the MRI facility when scheduling their MRI appointment and again when
they report for their MRI.
Although some patch products already note MRI warnings, others don't have
that label yet, and not all of them will need it. Kweder points out that
patients can't tell by looking at a patch whether it has trace amounts of metal
-- a clear-looking patch could contain tiny amounts of metal. So when in doubt,
take the patch off during the MRI and put it back on afterward; that's "the
smart thing to do," Kweder says.