Boy, 6, Killed in Freak MRI Accident

ByABC News
July 31, 2001, 5:19 AM

July 31 -- A 6-year-old boy died after undergoing an MRI exam at a New York-area hospital when the machine's powerful magnetic field jerked a metal oxygen tank across the room, crushing the child's head.

The force of the device's 10-ton magnet is about 30,000 times as powerful as Earth's magnetic field, and 200 times stronger than a common refrigerator magnet.

The canister fractured the skull and injured the brain of the young patient, Michael Colombini, of Croton-On-Hudson, N.Y., during the procedure Friday. He died of the injuries on Sunday, the hospital said.

The routine imaging procedure was performed after Colombini underwent surgery for a benign brain tumor last week. Westchester Medical Center officials said he was under sedation at the time of the deadly accident.

Hospital Takes Full Responsibility

"The medical center assumes full responsibility for the accident. Our sorrow is immeasurable and our prayers and our thoughts are with the child's family," the hospital's president and CEO, Edward Stolzenberg, said in a statement.

The medical center, which is located 15 miles north of New York City in Valhalla, reported the accident as required, and the state health department sent investigators to the scene Monday. The hospital said it was conducting its own inquiry as well.

A medical center spokeswoman would not say who brought the canister into the room.

"He was a delightful 6-year-old boy," remembered Lois Gimple Shaukat, a neighbor of the family. "He, you know, had big eyes and a bright smile."

Procedure Considered Safe and Effective

"These tend to be extremely safe machines if used properly," said Dr. Emanuel Kanal, the director of magnetic resonance services in the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Department of Radiology, and a widely recognized expert on MRI safety.

He estimates between 8 million and 10 million MRI procedures are performed in the United States each year, the vast majority without complications.