Rs 10 Lakh compensation for man who got sucked into MRI mach
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The Bombay High Court this week directed the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to pay Rs 10 lakh as interim compensation to the family Rajesh Maru, a resident of Lalbaug, who was killed after he was sucked into an MRI machine in the city’s civic authority-run BYL Nair Hospital in January 2018.

On January 27, 2018, a 65-year-old patient at Nair Hospital, was wheeled from the Medical Intensive Care Unit (MICU) to the Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) unit. The elderly patient was on oxygen support at the time. A MICU ward boy, doctor of the hospital’s Department of Medicine, and the patient’s relative, Rajesh Maru accompanied her.

At the same time, Maru, who was holding the oxygen cylinder with his left hand, his fingers wrapped around the cylinder’s nozzle, stepped through the door into Zone IV. The next instant, Maru, still holding the cylinder, flew off his feet “like a missile” and slammed into the gantry of the machine a few feet away.

The cylinder’s nob snapped, and with his upper body lodged halfway inside the machine’s circular hollow, Maru inhaled a rush of oxygen. Pneumothorax — a condition in which air (or other gas) fills the space between the lungs and chest wall, and the lungs collapse — followed.

The machine was switched off, and the war boy Chavan, the family, and the doctors pulled Maru out. One of his fingers, stuck between the broken cylinder knob and the gantry’s magnetic wall, was severed. “He had bloated like a balloon,” Maru’s brother-in-law Harish Solanki said. Maru was declared dead at the Emergency Ward.

MRI scanners have giant electromagnets with field strengths of between 0.5 tesla and 1.5 tesla. For reference, a fridge magnet is about 0.001 tesla, and the Earth’s magnetic field is 0.00005 tesla. The MRI machine at Mumbai’s Nair Hospital had a strength of 1.5 tesla — that is, 1,500 times more powerful than a fridge magnet and 30,000X the geomagnetic field.

Because of the machine’s giant magnetic field, hospitals and diagnostic centres issue detailed guidelines to ensure no metal objects are brought close. For patients (like Laxmi) who need oxygen during the scan, the MRI room has an MRI-compatible tube to supply oxygen.

Maru’s family had claimed at the time of the incident that the ward boy, had told them that the machine hadn’t been switched on yet. However, an MRI machine’s magnetic field is on even when it isn’t actually scanning.

An emergency button can be used to demagnetise the machine. However, radiologists say this can be dangerous. The liquid helium that maintains the magnet’s temperature may vaporise, leading to an accident. In Maru’s case, doctors chose to turn off the machine before trying to pull him out.

Safety protocol
In India, diagnostic centres doing radiation tests such as X-ray or CT scan must have Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) approval, and follow AERB guidelines. But MRI scans involve no radiation, and the guidelines do not apply. Precautions are taken as advised by the machines’ manufacturers.

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