If you’re at all familiar with imaging centers and/or imaging scans — such as CT and MRI — then you’re probably aware of the fact that before any of these kinds of scans, a radiologist or technologist will politely ask you to please remove all of your clothing (and jewelry) and change into a specified hospital or paper gown.
While some may think this is a bit of an arbitrary task, or that it’s simply a way to ensure sanitation or image quality, there is, in fact, a much more serious reason behind why your imaging center asks you to wear a gown: to prevent injury.
Why Hospital Gowns During Imaging Scans?
That’s right. Imaging centers are in the habit of asking their patients to wear a gown because certain clothes may result in skin burns, caused during the imaging scan. Although not typically found in clothes, some clothing items, such as yoga pants (particularly Lululemon yoga pants) and athleisure tops hold tiny metal microfibers that can cause serious burns if exposed to radiation.
Although no case had ever been reported, many imaging centers still adhered to this rule, while others allowed their patients to keep some clothing on. Then, in 2012, an 11-year old girl received second-degree burns from her athletic top - which included silver microfibers - while sedated during an MRI.
Her case is almost singular, but immediately imaging centers across the country started to enforce gowns being worn during procedures, and clothing companies using these metal microfibers began including caution notices on their tags.
Ensuring Imaging Scan Clothing Safety
While some imaging centers may still allow patients to leave their clothes on during a scan, they will usually use a metal detection device beforehand to ensure you are safe. The problem with this is that they may not catch these microfibers.
So how to know if you’re safe? Check whether your clothing says “anti-bacterial” or “anti-microbial”. If it does, then it includes metal microfibers, which are mostly used in athletic clothing. Better yet, just make sure to wear non-active, loose-fitting clothes to your procedure, or ask to be changed into a gown, especially if you are going to be sedated during the procedure.
As with any imaging procedure, if you feel any emotional or physical discomfort such as a burning sensation, be sure to tell your imaging tech. While they may not be in the room, they can hear you from the room where the scan is controlled. Some imaging centers even provide an emergency button which you can press to alert the technician.