This article reviews occupational exposure in clinical MRI; it specifically considers units of exposure, basic physical interactions, health effects, guideline limits, dosimetry, results of exposure surveys, calculation of induced fields and the status of the European Physical Agents Directive. Electromagnetic field exposure in MRI from the static field B0, imaging gradients and radiofrequency transmission fields induces electric fields and currents in tissue, which are responsible for various acute sensory effects. The underlying theory and its application to the formulation of incident and induced field limits are presented. The recent International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) Bundesministerium für Arbeit und Soziales and Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers limits for incident field exposure are interpreted in a manner applicable to MRI.
Field measurements show that exposure from movement within the B0 fringe field can exceed ICNIRP reference levels within 0.5 m of the bore entrance. Rate of change of field dB/dt from the imaging gradients is unlikely to exceed the new limits, although incident field limits can be exceeded for radiofrequency (RF) exposure within 0.2–0.5 m of the bore entrance.
Dosimetric surveys of routine clinical practice show that staff are exposed to peak values of 42±24% of B0, with time-averaged exposures of 5.2±2.8 mT for magnets in the range 0.6–4 T. Exposure to time-varying fields arising from movement within the B0 fringe resulted in peak dB/dt of approximately 2 T s−1.
Modelling of induced electric fields from the imaging gradients shows that ICNIRP-induced field limits are unlikely to be exceeded in most situations; however, movement through the static field may still present a problem. The likely application of the limits is discussed with respect to the reformulation of the European Union (EU) directive and its possible implications for MRI.