Can You Get an MRI If You Have Sternal Wires? Exploring Your Options

Have you ever wondered if you could get an MRI with sternal wires? You’re not alone. This is a common question that many people ask when they are dealing with a medical issue that requires diagnostic imaging. MRI or magnetic resonance imaging is a non-invasive and safe medical procedure that uses magnetic fields to create detailed images of the body’s internal structures.

However, if you have sternal wires from a previous surgery, you may have concerns about whether an MRI is safe or not. Sternal wires are metal wires that are used to keep the breastbone or sternum together after surgery. They are often used in open-heart surgery or other types of chest surgery. But the question remains: can you get an MRI if you have sternal wires?

To answer this question, we need to look at the types of sternal wires used in surgery, the safety protocols in place, and the possible risks associated with having an MRI with sternal wires. In this article, we will explore the answers to these questions and provide you with the information you need to make an informed decision about whether an MRI is safe for you.

Understanding Sternum Wire Surgery

Sternum wire surgery is a procedure where the breastbone (sternum) is cut and separated to gain access to the heart or lungs for surgery. During this surgery, wires are used to reattach the sternum after the procedure is completed. This type of surgery is commonly performed for open-heart surgeries, lung surgeries, and other surgeries that require access to the chest cavity.

  • Sternum wire surgery is a major procedure that requires an extended healing period.
  • The surgery is often performed to treat a wide range of cardiac and respiratory issues.
  • The wires used are made of surgical-grade stainless steel or titanium, and are designed to be strong enough to support the sternum as it heals properly.

Patients who have undergone sternum wire surgery may be concerned about undergoing diagnostic imaging tests, such as an MRI. MRI uses a strong magnetic field to produce detailed images of the internal body structures, and some patients may have concerns about the safety of undergoing an MRI with sternum wires.

According to medical experts, sternum wires are not typically a contraindication for undergoing an MRI. However, patients should inform their healthcare provider if they have sternum wires before undergoing an MRI. In some cases, the MRI machine may cause the wires to heat up or move from their original position, which could potentially cause harm.

Things to consider before undergoing MRI with sternum wires Safety measures to take while undergoing MRI with sternum wires
– Inform your healthcare provider about the wires – The MRI technician will position the patient to ensure that the wires do not interfere with the imaging
– Discuss any concerns or questions with your healthcare provider – The MRI technician may use additional padding or shielding to protect the patient and wires from heat or movement
– Wear loose, comfortable clothing to the MRI appointment – Careful monitoring during and after the MRI by healthcare professionals
– Remove metal objects, such as jewelry or piercings, before the MRI appointment – Follow post-MRI instructions from the healthcare provider, including any monitoring or follow-up appointments

It is essential for patients to communicate with their healthcare provider and MRI technician before undergoing any diagnostic imaging tests to ensure that they are safe and effective.

Risks of Getting an MRI with Sternum Wires

If you have undergone heart surgery, it is possible that you have sternal wires to help keep your chest cavity stable. These wires are made of non-magnetic materials, such as stainless steel, but there are still risks involved with getting an MRI scan if you have them.

  • The MRI machine uses strong magnets to create images, which can cause the wires to shift or move. This can be uncomfortable or even painful for the patient, and could result in damage to the surrounding tissues.
  • There is a small risk that the sternal wires could heat up during an MRI scan, which can cause burns or other injuries. While modern MRI machines are designed to minimize this risk, it is still a potential danger.
  • In rare cases, the presence of sternal wires may interfere with the accuracy of the MRI scan. This is more likely if the wires are not properly positioned, which can be a concern if the surgery was performed a long time ago.

It is important to discuss the risks and benefits of getting an MRI with your doctor if you have sternal wires. In some cases, they may recommend an alternative imaging technique, such as a CT scan or ultrasound. However, if an MRI is deemed necessary, there are steps that can be taken to reduce the risks.

The MRI technician will ask you a series of screening questions before the scan to ensure that you do not have any metal in your body that could be affected by the magnets. They may also place a pad or cushion over the sternal wires to protect them during the scan.

Steps to Take Possible Risks
Discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor before the MRI scan. None
Inform the MRI technician that you have sternal wires. None
Follow all instructions given by the technician, such as removing metal objects and changing into a hospital gown. None
Stay still during the scan to minimize the risk of the wires shifting or heating up. Discomfort or pain

By taking these steps and following the guidance of your doctor and the MRI technician, you can reduce the risks associated with getting an MRI if you have sternal wires.

Alternatives to MRIs for Patients with Sternum Wires

If you have sternal wires, getting an MRI may pose potential risks and complications. Therefore, it is important to explore alternative imaging options that can provide accurate diagnostic results without compromising your safety.

  • Computed Tomography (CT) scan: A CT scan is a type of imaging test that uses X-ray and computer technology to produce detailed images of the body. It is a noninvasive and painless procedure that can provide high-resolution images of the chest area, making it an effective alternative to an MRI if you have sternal wires.
  • Ultrasound: Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of the body’s internal organs and tissues. It is a noninvasive and painless procedure that does not involve radiation exposure. Ultrasound can effectively evaluate the chest area and is an alternative imaging option for patients with sternal wires.
  • Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA): MRA is a type of imaging test that uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to produce detailed images of blood vessels in the body. Unlike a traditional MRI, MRA does not require the use of contrast dyes, making it a safer imaging option for patients with sternal wires. However, it may not be as effective in evaluating other non-vascular structures in the chest area.

Natural Alternatives to Imaging Tests

While imaging tests can provide valuable diagnostic information, there are also natural alternatives that can help evaluate and manage chest pain or other related symptoms.

For example, acupuncture and chiropractic care can help alleviate pain and restore proper alignment of the chest area, providing relief for patients with sternal wires. Additionally, regular exercise, a healthy diet, and stress-reduction techniques such as meditation or yoga can also contribute to the overall health and wellbeing of patients.

Proper Precautions for Imaging Tests

If an imaging test such as an MRI is necessary for your medical diagnosis despite having sternal wires, your doctor will likely take precautions to ensure your safety and minimize any potential risks or complications.

Precautions for MRI with sternal wires Recommendations
Assessment of sternal wire condition Before undergoing an MRI, your doctor will assess the condition of your sternal wires and determine if it is safe to proceed with the imaging test.
Use of specialized MRI equipment Your doctor may use specialized MRI equipment that is designed to minimize the risk of heating or dislodging the sternal wires during the test.
Monitoring during the MRI exam You will be closely monitored during the MRI exam to ensure that the sternal wires are not causing any discomfort or complications.
Careful post-procedure monitoring Your doctor may recommend careful post-procedure monitoring to ensure that the sternal wires have not been affected by the MRI exam.

Discussing your options and concerns with your doctor is crucial to determining the best course of action for your diagnosis and treatment. Be sure to communicate any medical conditions, including the presence of sternal wires, to your healthcare provider to ensure that you receive the safest and most effective treatment possible.

Preparing for an MRI with Sternum Wires

If you have undergone sternotomy (a surgical procedure involving opening the chest to access the heart or lungs), you may have sternal wires or other metallic objects such as sutures or plates in your chest. These devices are used to close the sternum and promote healing after the procedure. Many people who have had sternotomy may require an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) for a variety of reasons, such as diagnosing or monitoring heart or lung conditions, or evaluating other areas of the body. However, getting an MRI with sternal wires requires special consideration and preparation.

  • Inform your healthcare provider: Before scheduling an MRI, inform your healthcare provider that you have sternal wires. Your doctor or radiologist will determine if MRI is safe for you or if another test is recommended.
  • Check the type and placement of your wires: Not all types of metal wires or implants are compatible with MRI. Inform your healthcare provider of the type of wire or implant you have and its placement in your chest.
  • Screening: You will need to go through a metal detector to enter the MRI area. If the detector detects your wires, the staff may ask you to complete further screening to ensure the safety and quality of the MRI.

It is essential to prepare for an MRI to ensure your safety and the quality of the images obtained. Below are additional tips to consider:

  • Wear comfortable clothes with no metal: You will be asked to change into a gown before the MRI, so wearing comfortable clothes with minimal metal can make it easier and quicker to change.
  • Remove jewelry and other metal: Before the MRI, remove all jewelry, watches, and other metal objects such as hairpins, body piercings, and hearing aids. If you are not sure if an item contains metal, ask the staff.
  • Relax: An MRI can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour depending on the type and number of scans needed. Lie still and relax during the scan to obtain a clear image.

MRI Safety and Sternum Wires

Safety is a top priority during an MRI. The MRI machine uses a strong magnetic field to produce images of the body, and metallic items may pose a risk for the patient. The safety guidelines for MRI with sternal wires include:

Metal Type Compatibility with MRI
Titanium Safe for MRI
Cobalt-chromium Safe for MRI
Stainless Steel May not be safe for MRI
Iron Not safe for MRI

Consulting your healthcare provider and informing them of your surgical history can minimize the risk associated with MRI. Also, it is important to note that becoming anxious or moving during an MRI can lead to blurring of the images, which may necessitate additional tests or delay in diagnosis.

Possible Complications with Sternum Wire Removal

While sternum wire removal is considered a safe procedure, there are still some possible complications that patients should be aware of before undergoing the surgery.

  • Postoperative pain: After the surgery, patients may experience moderate to severe pain in the chest area. This might also be accompanied by swelling and tenderness in the wound site. The doctor will prescribe pain medication to manage the discomfort.
  • Bleeding and infection: Although rare, there is a risk of bleeding and infection after the sternum wire removal surgery. The doctor will closely monitor the patient to ensure that there are no signs of bleeding or infection. Proper wound care and hygiene are necessary to prevent infection.
  • Scar tissue formation: The removal of sternum wires can lead to the formation of scar tissue around the wound site. Scar tissue can be painful, and in some cases, it can become so tight that it restricts the movement of the chest. To avoid this, patients are advised to regularly do stretching exercises prescribed by their doctor to prevent the formation of scar tissue.
  • Chronic pain: Some patients may continue to experience pain even after the surgery has healed. This is rare but can occur and might be a result of nerve damage that occurred during the surgery.
  • Wire migration: In rare cases, the wires used for the sternum wire removal surgery may migrate from their original position to other areas of the chest, causing discomfort and pain. To prevent wire migration, it is important to follow the doctor’s instructions for proper wound care and to refrain from any activities that might put stress on the chest area.

Prevention and Management of Complications

Prior to undergoing sternum wire removal surgery, patients will be informed of the potential risks and complications by their healthcare provider. Proper wound care and careful monitoring can help prevent most complications from occurring. In the event of complications, the doctor will provide appropriate treatment or medication to manage the issue effectively, ensuring the patient’s speedy recovery.

Risk Recommendation Table

Complication Risk Factors Risk Management
Postoperative pain Obese or overweight, Age, non-compliance to pain management instructions Strict adherence to pain management instructions, timely communication with healthcare provider
Bleeding and infection Poor wound care, unsterilized equipment, and instruments, history of bleeding disorder Strict adherence to medication, good wound care, use of sterile equipment, and instruments, timely reporting of any unusual symptoms
Scar tissue formation Previous chest surgeries, poor wound care Proper wound care and hygiene, follow-up management by healthcare provider
Chronic pain Nerve damage during surgery, underlying conditions Medication, nerve-blockers, timely report of symptoms to healthcare provider
Wire migration Strenuous physical activity, poor wound care Follow the post-operative instructions, proper wound care, limit strenuous activities, report any symptoms to your healthcare provider

It is important to note that while complications can and do occur, many patients who undergo sternum wire removal surgery report little to no complications or discomfort during and after the procedure. To minimize complications, patients are advised to follow the recommended pre and post-operative instructions and communicate with their healthcare provider at each stage of recovery.

Benefits of Sternum Wire Removal

If you have had heart surgery, you may have had sternal wires placed in your chest to help hold your sternum in place as it heals. However, over time, these wires may become irritating or cause discomfort. In some cases, they may even break and require removal. Here are some benefits of sternal wire removal:

  • Reduced discomfort: Removing sternal wires can alleviate discomfort and pain caused by the wires pressing on nerves, muscles, or bones.
  • Infection prevention: Broken or exposed wires can increase the risk of infection in the chest area. Removing the wires can prevent this risk.
  • Improved mobility: Without the discomfort caused by sternal wires, patients can increase their mobility and range of motion, leading to a faster recovery.

If you are experiencing discomfort or other issues related to your sternal wires, it is important to talk to your doctor about the possibility of removal.

What to Expect During Sternum Wire Removal

If your doctor recommends sternal wire removal, you may be wondering what the procedure entails. Generally, the procedure is minimally invasive and involves the following steps:

  • Anesthesia: You will be given either local anesthesia or general anesthesia to numb the area and help you relax during the procedure.
  • Incision: Your surgeon will make a small incision near the area where the sternal wires were placed.
  • Removal: Using surgical tools, your surgeon will carefully remove the wires from your chest.
  • Closure: Once the wires have been removed, the incision will be closed with sutures or staples. You may need to wear a bandage or dressing for a few days after the procedure.

You may experience some discomfort or pain after the procedure, but most patients are able to return to their normal activities within a few days. Your doctor will provide you with instructions on how to care for your incision and manage any pain or discomfort you may experience.

Risks of Sternum Wire Removal

As with any surgical procedure, there are some risks associated with sternal wire removal. These risks may include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Damage to surrounding tissue or organs
  • Allergic reaction to anesthesia or other medications

However, the risk of complications is generally low, and most patients experience a smooth recovery following sternal wire removal.


Benefits Risks
Reduced discomfort Bleeding
Infection prevention Infection
Improved mobility Damage to surrounding tissue or organs
Allergic reaction to anesthesia or other medications

If you are experiencing discomfort or other issues related to your sternal wires, it may be worth talking to your doctor about the possibility of removal. While there are some risks associated with the procedure, the benefits of sternal wire removal can be significant and can help improve your overall quality of life.

Sternum Wire Removal Recovery Time

If you have undergone sternotomy, a surgical procedure that involves separating the sternum (breastbone) to gain access to the heart, lungs, or other thoracic organs, you may have had sternal wires placed to hold the bone in place during healing. However, if you are experiencing discomfort, infection, or other complications related to the wires, your doctor may recommend their removal.

Sternum wire removal is typically a straightforward and minimally invasive procedure that can be performed under local anesthesia on an outpatient basis. The recovery time varies depending on several factors, such as your overall health, the reason for wire removal, and the extent of your surgery. However, most patients can expect to resume normal activities within a few days to several weeks after surgery.

  • Pain management: After the surgery, you may experience some discomfort, swelling, and bruising around the incision site. Your doctor may prescribe pain medication or recommend over-the-counter options to manage your pain. Applying ice packs and keeping the area elevated can also help reduce pain and swelling.
  • Restricted activities: It’s essential to follow your doctor’s instructions regarding activity restrictions. Avoid any strenuous exercise or heavy lifting for at least a few weeks after surgery, as these activities can increase your risk of injury or delay healing. Instead, try light stretching, walking, or other low-impact movements to promote circulation and flexibility.
  • Dressing care: Your doctor will provide instructions on how to care for your dressing and incision site. Keep the area clean and dry, avoid soaking it in water or exposing it to heat sources, and change the dressing as directed. Your doctor may also recommend wearing a compression garment or brace to support the area during healing.

Most patients will have a follow-up appointment with their doctor a few weeks after the surgery to monitor their progress and ensure that the incision site is healing properly. You should contact your doctor immediately if you experience any signs of infection, such as fever, redness, swelling, or drainage from the incision.

Overall, sternum wire removal recovery time is generally quick and uncomplicated, with many patients experiencing relief from their symptoms shortly after the procedure. However, it’s essential to follow your doctor’s guidance and take care of yourself during the healing process to ensure the best possible outcome.

Activity Recovery Time
Walking, light stretching, gentle exercises A few days
Normal daily activities, such as driving or working 1-2 weeks
Strenuous exercise, heavy lifting At least 4-6 weeks

Remember to consult with your doctor before resuming any activities after your sternum wire removal surgery.

Can You Get an MRI if You Have Sternal Wires FAQ

Q: Can I get an MRI if I have sternal wires in my chest?
A: Yes, in most cases, you can get an MRI with sternal wires as long as they are made of non-magnetic materials.

Q: What are sternal wires made of?
A: Sternal wires are typically made of non-magnetic alloys such as titanium, stainless steel, or cobalt-chromium.

Q: Can sternal wires cause problems during an MRI?
A: No, if you have non-magnetic sternal wires, they will not cause any issues during an MRI, as long as you inform your doctor beforehand.

Q: Do I have to remove my sternal wires before an MRI?
A: No, you don’t have to remove the sternal wires before an MRI. Your doctor will assess which type of MRI is best for you.

Q: Can MRI affect sternal wires?
A: No, an MRI does not affect sternal wires, but it is best to inform your doctor beforehand if you have any metal implants.

Q: Can I get an MRI with magnetic sternal wires?
A: It’s not recommended to get an MRI with magnetic sternal wires. Experts suggest removing the metal to avoid risks.

Q: Are there any alternative imaging methods for people with magnetic sternal wires?
A: Yes, there are other imaging methods such as CT scans, X-rays, and ultrasound.

Closing Thoughts

We hope that these FAQs have helped clear up any confusion about getting an MRI with sternal wires. It’s essential to inform your doctor about any metal implants you may have, even if they are non-magnetic. Remember, there are other imaging methods available if you have magnetic sternal wires. Thanks for reading, and feel free to visit us again soon!