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EU’s threat to MRI scanners still looms large

17.12.2008
Urgent action and public pressure is still required to stop the European Union adopting legislation which will restrict the use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners in the UK and throughout Europe.

Earlier this year, thanks to a successful campaigning effort by the UK’s MRI community, including the British Institute of Radiology and the Royal College of Radiologists, a last minute postponement to the Physical Agents (EMF) Directive was introduced which delayed its implementation that would have had a serious impact on current and emerging MRI techniques.

The Institute of Physics (IOP) has launched a new report, MRI and the Physical Agents (EMF) Directive, which intends to spur informed debate and encourage European politicians to consider more recent research which shows how potentially harmful the heavy-handed European directive is.

Although the implementation of the directive has been postponed until April 2012, its content remains unchanged and, unless there is a further amendment, the exposure limit for low-frequency magnetic fields will still severely impair use of MRI scanners in medical practice and research.

This new report suggests that the logic behind the limit on low-frequency magnetic fields is based on out-of-date and unreplicated research and, if implemented, will result in increased use of X-rays as a diagnostic tool.

Dr Stephen Keevil, author of the IOP’s report from Kings’ College, London, writes, “It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that a range of current and emerging MRI procedures would be rendered illegal by the directive. Some of these techniques simply cannot be performed in other ways, and in other cases the only possible option would expose both the patient and workers to ionising radiation.”

The report summarises a series of possible outcomes proposed by the European Commission and suggests that a solution specific to MRI would be more suitable than a one-size-fits-all mandatory directive as it would be easier to modify when new research about exposure levels is undertaken and, unlike the directive in its current form, could specifically address any health concerns surrounding MRI.

There are 500 MRI scanners situated in hospitals around the UK, benefitting more than one million patients every year. Three of the most common uses for MRI scanners in the UK are diagnosing and monitoring the success of cancer treatment and assessing the damage caused by a stroke or heart attack. MRI also plays a vital role in clinical research of diseases such as multiple sclerosis.

Joe Winters | alfa
Further information:
http://www.iop.org

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