Pros and cons of full-body MRI scans

Pros and cons of full-body MRI scans

Experts disagree on the need for expensive, high-tech testing to detect early symptoms of potentially life-threatening illnesses

Kim Kardashian received a new full-body MRI scan that claims to be ‘life-saving’ and has promoted the treatment, but medical experts have questioned the wisdom of exposing the general public to such advanced technology.

Whole-body scans are generally not recommended for asymptomatic persons due to limited evidence of their efficacy. “Prenuvo scans have not been subjected to clinical trials, and typically screening asymptomatic people with imaging leads to more harm (via false positives) than benefits (via true positives),” tweeted Dr. Tyler Black, a psychiatrist and pharmacologist in Canada.

Dr. Alla Gopala Krishna Gokhale, the first surgeon to successfully do heart transplant surgery in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, believes that full-body scans are unneeded for healthy persons and can have both harmful and beneficial consequences. “I advocate lifestyle adjustments first to preserve excellent health; tests that are easily available at a reasonable cost, such as those for diabetes, hypertension, PAP smears, and TMTs, will also help. Keep specialist exams like MRIs and CT angiographies for rare cases,” he says and adds, “These tests, if administered to everyone, will be difficult to access by those in desperate need of them. It would put enormous strain on the system.”  

Dr Manjula Anagani, Clinical Director and HoD Obstetrics & Gynaecology at Care Hospitals, believes that the man behind the machine is equally as vital as the machine itself. “Early tumours are not always detectable. Instead of spending money on unneeded tests and expensive equipment, the best plan of action is to have a doctor do a basic annual physical examination and wellness checkup. Early cervical cancer can be found in PAP tests before it manifests in MRIs and other tests,” says Dr. Manjula, adding, “Because of their high sensitivity, MRI scans are more likely to uncover situations that appear abnormal but are not.”
Flip side On the other side, several studies have discovered that full-body scans can detect early indicators of cancer and other health issues in some patients. And if patients opt to spend their money on such tests, Dr. K Subba Reddy, Critical Care Specialist at Apollo Health City, sees no reason to prohibit them. He feels that interest in the scans indicates that people are interested in preventative medicine.

“The use of MRI in the diagnosis of neurological diseases, spinal cord injuries, brain infections, acute strokes, cardiac viability, soft tissue infections, and sports-related soft tissue injuries is quite advantageous. It is an important diagnostic procedure utilised in hospitals for a variety of illnesses,” says Dr. Subba Reddy.

Safety concerns

While an MRI scan is not to be dreaded, there should be knowledge of safety concerns because it is not appropriate for everyone. Dr. Subba Reddy warns that just because an MRI does not employ ionising radiation, like X-rays or CT scans, does not make it ‘risk-free.’

* Some people suffer from claustrophobia, and because an MRI console is a small, enclosed room, it may cause issues. Anaesthesia is important for these individuals, although it carries dangers.

* People who have cardiac pacemakers, implantable infusion pumps, cochlear implants, intracranial aneurysm clips, some iron-based implants, intrauterine contraceptive devices, neurostimulators, or prosthetic devices are not eligible for MRI scans. People who have bullets, surgical metals clips, plates, screws, or metallic implants in their body cannot get MRI scans.

* Pregnant women should inform doctors about their condition because MRI might produce heat in the intrauterine amniotic fluid.

* In rare cases, MRIs might induce heat-related problems.

* MRI contrast dyes may cause issues in patients with renal impairment and pregnant women. In rare situations, they may trigger a serious hypersensitivity reaction.