04 Jul

New MRI scanners could increase mercury leakage from fillings

A new BBC report suggests that new, more sophisticated MRI scanners could increase mercury leakage from amalgam fillings.
Trials have revealed that new scanners, which are more powerful, caused more mercury vapour to leak from extracted teeth than teeth that were scanned using older equipment. Using a test tube of artificial saliva, researchers found that more leakage occurred with newer scanners than older models.
MRI scanners may cause the fillings to heat up, which causes mercury vapour from amalgam fillings to leak. Studies that were conducted previous to this recent trial confirmed that there was no evidence to suggest increased vapour during MRI scans, but this latest study analysed the impact of newer scanners. For this trial, researchers used a 7.0-Tesla MRI scanner. This new scanner produces more powerful magnetic waves and it is primarily used for research and clinical trials. It is uncommon for this type of scanner to be employed for diagnostic tests and procedures.
The findings of the study could impact the use of this new breed of MRI scanners in the future, as the unit price is likely to decrease in years to come, which could mean that the scanners are used more commonly.
It is not known whether the results would be the same if the scanner was used on a patient with amalgam fillings, or whether the vapour could be absorbed by the body, producing negative side-effects, and further research is required to answer these questions.