What not to wear during an MRI

August 6, 2018 Providence Health Team


In this article: 

  • In recent years, there have been occasional reports of burns and blisters from wearing athleisure clothing during an MRI. 

  • While seemingly safe and comfortable, athletic garments often contain metallic fibers.

  • Providence radiology experts recommend cotton clothing or hospital gowns to keep patients safe and comfortable during their procedure.

When you’re getting an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging scan), it’s important for you to be comfortable because you’re going to need to lay still for a while during the imaging. Often, patients can keep their clothes on instead of changing into a gown, so you may opt for your comfy yoga pants and a workout top or sweats.

But what you wear during an MRI actually matters a lot.

There have been occasional reports of people experiencing second-degree burns, redness, and blistering after an MRI. Those burns were caused not by the machine itself, but by the reaction the MRI had with the athletic clothing patients were wearing. 

The risks of wearing athletic clothing


Many athleisure brands produce garments made with metallic fibers. The fibers are sewn into the garments to prevent shrinkage during exercise and washing. However, since the fibers are mostly made from silver, the machine’s magnetic field turns them into a magnet causing them to move and heat up rapidly. This can lead to light to moderate burns and an overall unpleasant trip to the hospital.

In the past, patients were unaware of the risks associated with their clothing choices and chose to be comfortable during their exam. In recent years, hospitals have imposed policies limiting the type of clothing allowed during such exams — some have even banned athletic clothing in general.

Although it’s difficult to know for sure if your athletic clothing is made with metallic fibers, you can always research the clothing online or speak to the brand directly. 

Be safe during your next MRI scan

Educate yourself beforehand and follow instructions. Ask your doctor or the MRI staff what you need to know, what to expect, and if they have written materials or other information that answers frequently answered questions and helps you prepare before your appointment.

Choose your clothing carefully. Because of the serious reaction workout clothing has to the scanner, radiologists suggest that patients opt for clothing made from cotton fabric or paper hospital gowns. Beyond this, it’s important to make sure that your clothing is free from metal zippers, buttons, and fasteners. This includes bras with underwire.

You should also check for metal in your body. The strong magnetic field will pick up anything metal, not just those fibers found in your clothing. Let your doctor or radiologist know if you have any of the following:


  • Artificial heart valves or pacemakers
  • Cochlear implants (hearing implants)
  • Metallic implants or prosthesis
  • Shrapnel or bullet wounds
  • Vascular stent or stent graft
  • Dental implants such as metal crowns
  • Any history of working with metal

Your doctor will recommend the best and safest course of treatment or modify your exam to accommodate your situation.

Leave the accessories at home. Your purse or wallet may have metal wires and may contain coins, keys, and other metal objects. Besides leaving these items at home, your technician will most likely ask you to leave any metal jewelry, including watches and rings, outside of the exam room. Other items to avoid bringing with you are:

  • Hairpins
  • Eyeglasses
  • Belts, belt buckles
  • Cell phones and electronic devices
  • Credit cards with magnetic strips

Don’t overlook the less obvious metallic items

Did you know your makeup also contains traces of metal? Metal is found in most mineral makeup including blush, eyeshadow, lipstick and nail polish. Err on the safe side and go into your appointment fresh-faced. MRI can also interact with pigments in certain inks, so it’s especially important to speak to your radiologist to find out if your tattoo will put you at risk.

Before your MRI exam, speak to your radiologist or doctor about best practices. You’ll want to learn all you can about how to stay safe, calm, and confident during this procedure.


Find a doctor

Are you scheduled for an MRI soon? Providence physicians and radiologists are here to help you feel safe and comfortable during your procedure. Speak to one of our radiology experts in our provider directory or find a primary care doctor. Through Providence Express Care Virtual, you can also access a full range of healthcare services. 

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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.

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