Don’t bring a gun into a room with an MRI machine. Just don’t.
Otherwise, what tragically happened to a 40-year-old lawyer, Leandro Mathias de Novaes, could happen to you. On January 16, the lawyer allegedly brought a gun concealed on his waist into the room where his mother was going to undergo magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) at the Laboratorio Cura in São Paulo, Brazil. The magnetic field generated by the MRI machine then reportedly caused the gun to discharge a shot right into his abdomen, as described by Folha De S. Paulo. This led to major injuries and his being rushed to the São Luiz Morumbi Hospital. But unfortunately, the damage to his body was already so great that the lawyer ended up dying on February 6.
There’s a reason why you’re told to remove all ferromagnetic metal objects before entering a room where an MRI machine is located. The “M” stands for “magnetic” because the large tube-shaped machine can generate a powerful magnetic field, much more powerful than the fields created by the magnets on your refrigerator door. In fact, an MRI scanner can produce a magnetic field that’s 140,000 times the strength of the earth’s magnetic field, according to GE. This magnetic field comes from electrical pulses being sent through the MRI machine’s metal coils. The pulses cause these coils to vibrate, which produces the banging sound that you typically hear being emitted from an MRI machine. These loud banging sounds are yet another reason why it’s a bad idea to take an MRI scanner into a movie theater.
The “I” in MRI stands for “imaging” because that’s the whole purpose of a medical MRI machine, to generate intricate pictures of your anatomy. These images can then help show how your body is working and what might go wrong, ranging from torn ligaments to aneurysms to strokes to cancer. The magnetic field is central to how these images are created.
Magnetic resonance imaging makes use of the fact that more than half of your body is composed of water, even though very few people list “55% to 60% water” on their Tinder profiles. Each water molecule consists of two hydrogen protons. The magnetic field generated by the MRI scanner first causes the protons in your body to align with that field, sort of like what happens to people at a wedding when they announce that they are going to do the Electric Slide.
Then the machine sends bursts of radio waves into select parts of your body that, in turn, knock various proportions of your protons out of alignment. After these radio waves are stopped, each of the protons then snaps back to its original alignment, releasing radio signals as a result. The amount of radio signals released from a given part of the body depends on the number of protons there and the speeds at which they go back to their original alignments. Sensors on the MRI machine can detect these released radio signals and afterward translate them into detailed computer images of your anatomy.
Any magnet powerful enough to pull your protons into alignment is going to be powerful enough to make metallic objects fly in different directions. An MRI can be like a very angry Magneto from the X-Men movies. The following video from the practical fMRI The YouTube channel gives you a sense of just how powerful this magnetic field can be:
See how the MRI machine shredded that stapler? That’s some major magnetism there. And you should always assume that an MRI machine’s magnetic field is always on, even when a scan isn’t being actively performed. Just because someone isn’t inside the scanner at the time doesn’t mean that it’s time to show off your juggling screwdrivers act next to the scanner. That’s why you are typically asked to leave your metal jewelry, forks, spoons, keys, staplers, fountain pens, chains, crowbars, zippers, xylophones, cymbals, anvils, flame throwers, air fryers, harpoons, tridents, and, yes, guns before entering a room with an MRI machine.
But apparently, the lawyer did not heed such requests. in fact, according to Beatriz Gabriele, Carolina Figueiredo, and Gabriel Fernedada reporting for CNN Brazileven though the lawyer did sign a form agreeing to follow all protocols, he did not reveal to the personnel at the Laboratorio Cura that he was still carrying the concealed weapon into the room. As Ben Cost has been reported for the New York Post, a spokesperson for Laboratorio Cura released a statement that said, “Both the patient and his companion were properly instructed regarding the procedures for accessing the examination room and warned about the removal of any and all metallic objects.” The facility’s spokesperson emphasized that the lawyer had not mentioned his gun and had entered the area with the MRI machine “by his own decision.” Cost also reported how the lawyer had “frequently posted pro-gun content to his more than 8,000 followers on TikTok.”
There should be no reason to bring a gun into a room with an MRI scanner. Sure you may claim the need for freedom or to be free at all times. But is it really worth having metallic objects flying free in the room around you? Chances are the radiology techs or the MRI machine itself won’t jump you while you are in the room. So why exactly is gun protection needed? If you do get into a fight with an MRI machine, the MRI machine will probably win. As they say, don’t bring a gun to a fight with a big magnetic field.
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