Magnetic resonance imaging with cochlear implants and auditory brainstem implants: Are we truly practicing MRI safety?

Matthew Shew, Helena Wichova, James Lin, Luke N. Ledbetter, Hinrich Staecker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Objective: Our objective is to evaluate the safety in patients with cochlear implants (CIs) and auditory brainstem implants (ABI) undergoing 1.5 Tesla (T) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Secondly, we want to raise awareness on CI and MRI safety, and advocate for continued improvement and advancement to minimize morbidity for our CI patients. Methods: Retrospective case series from 2006 to 2018 at a single tertiary academic center. Data was collected on patients with CI or auditory brainstem implants undergoing MRI. Outcomes collected include demographic data, age at time of MRI, MRI characteristics, complications, CI manufacturer, and image quality. Results: Eighteen patients with CI or ABI collectively underwent a total of 62 MRI scans. Five of 15 (33%) CI patients with magnet had complications: five total of 24 MRI scans (21%). Two patients had magnet removal prior to 29 MRI scans without complications. Four of five MRI-related complications were equipped with a U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved head wrap. Three of five required a trip to the operating room to explore and reposition the CI magnet; two could not complete MRI secondary to pain. Of the complications, two were Cochlear (Sydney, Australia), two Advanced Bionics (Valencia, CA), and one MED-EL (Innsbruck, Austria). Synchrony model (MED-EL) had 0 of seven complications, with a total of 19 MRI scans, which features a freely rotating and self-aligning magnet. Conclusion: Our series offers a diverse number of CI manufacturers and is in accordance with other literature that CI MRI-related adverse events are occurring at an unacceptable frequency. We can promote CI MRI safety through our institutions' MRI CI patient protocols, raise awareness that diagnostic MRI benefits must outweigh CI-related complications, and advocate for continued industry technological innovation. Level of Evidence: 4 Laryngoscope, 129:482–489, 2019.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)482-489
Number of pages8
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2019


  • Cochlear implant
  • magnet displacement
  • MRI safety
  • NF2


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