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When I was taken to the local ER recently, suffering pain that felt like someone had inserted a Visegrips into the innards on my right side and was steadily twisting, the medical pros diagnosed the problem as kidney stones. And they took a nice commemorative photo of the little bastards by passing me through a CT scanner after administering some wonderful chemical assistance so I could stop writhing and lay still long enough to complete the test. Even through my drug-addled haze, I noticed all of the signs warning of a strong magnetic field as they wheeled me into the room with the big doughnut. Unfortunately, one Chicago cop wasn’t as observant . . .

After a report of a robbery at a local medical facility, the cop in question was apparently there doing a little old fashioned police work, snooping around to see what’s what. We get the lowdown on the LEO from

When an investigating officer stepped into an MRI room at the medical centre in East St. Charles Road, the powerful scanning machine pulled his gun away and fixed it on to the medical device.

Because of the danger of having an uncontrollable weapon in the office and the fact the magnetism could not be shut off, the building was cordoned off and no-one was allowed to enter.

I’d have paid cash money to watch them pry that (loaded) heater off of a 2-ton magnet.

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  1. What position was he in when this occurred? Did the gun just fly out of his holster and latch onto the circular magnet much like a… oh’ forget it.

  2. What was the heater loaded with? I thought it was a firearm that was magnetically attached to the machine?

      • Stainless steel is ferrous and is magnetic.

        The volume of metal in dental braces is small and they are attached pretty securely. They will produce artifact out the wazoo and screw your study at least partially, but they are not dangerous.

        • Some stainless steels are magnetic. Others are not.

          In general, annealed or stress-relieved austenitic stainless steels have very low magnetic permeabilities.

        • This issue is the alternating magnetic field of an MRI is a giant induction heating coil. If your braces were ferromagnetic, you’d be less worried about having head pulled around by your teeth than the orthodontic wire becoming red hot instantly.

        • I dunno about dental materials, but I’m pretty sure most other implants these days (hip replacements, etc) are titanium, not steel.

          ps: condolences on the kidney stones. I had a gallstone attack a few years back, it was the worst pain I’d ever felt. If I had to choose between going through that again and getting shot, I’d be asking ‘shot where?’ before deciding.

  3. You don’t pull the retained object in direct opposition to the magnetic field. That’s dangerous, not to mention difficult-to-impossible because of the exponential increases in field strength as you get close to the magnets.

    The primary technique used is to slide the object at a shallow tangent to the magnetic fields, basically using the inclined-plane principle to slowly move it away from the magnets while keeping it fully supported. For large objects like a pistol, this will frequently require building a sturdy plywood structure to extend the sliding face beyond the edges of the MRI machine outer casing, and using some means of retention to keep the pistol from returning to the mothership.

  4. They might have de-energized the magnet but that would suck for the facility because it would probably be down for a few days. I have had pliers stuck to the side of one before. And this is not the first cop to have his gun removed by a MRI. And not the first person to bring something into the room that should not have been there.

    • Not even remotely the first person.

      Quite a few MRI techs have stories about people who failed to read the signs or forgot that they were wearing metallic jewelry. And then there are the people who thought that if their piercings were covered by clothing, they didn’t count…….

  5. The MRI would have to have been turned off in order to retrieve the weapon. And, it takes hours to restart. Shutting down an MRI is not taken lightly and is costly too.

    • Yep. And all the appointments for the use of the machine during the shut-down and re-start will have to be re-scheduled.

      But hey, the officer’s mistake won’t cost him any money… so no harm, no foul, right?

      The ghost of James Clerk Maxwell doesn’t give a crap about the officer’s “authoratah.”

  6. Should some idiot newbie wheel an oxygen tank into the room, the healthy thing to do is NOT to be between the tank and the MRI. Just sayin’,,,,

    It’s not too good for the MRI, but it’s damn unpleasant for you. Momentarily, that is.

  7. Some signs warn of the Laws of Man. Some warn of the Laws of Nature.

    Be sure to know which ones you are exempt from.

  8. A 1.5 Tesla coil can bend street signs outside the building (over time). There are signs warning people about entering the room with metal items.
    That said, Glocks still have to have a metal barrel, don’t they?….

    • Only if the room is not shielded. Every hospital I have built has has shielded rooms for the MRI. However some clinics do not always install an MRI in the proper type of enclosure. A few years ago a secretary at a clinic in NY was killed from the radiation received from an MRI not in a shielded room. Her station was just on the other side of the wall from the MRI.

      • Of course. But in the days of old this would happen…
        That said, MRIs DO NOT emit radiation – only magnetic fields.

        • They do not emit radiation like an X-ray but they do radiate a magnetic field. Years of being exposed to this field could cause problems. It might have been a CT machine that killed the lady. I just remember it cause I was installing an MRI at the time I heard of it.

        • If it was radiation that got her, it must have been a CT scanner (which is basically a fancy X-ray machine).

      • Probably was a CT machine, not an MRI. BIG difference. CT machines use quite a bit of x-rays (which is ionizing radiation) and will cause problems over time. MRI machines just use very powerful magnetic fields which pose no health risk, short term or long term.

  9. Is a Glock 7 the new all plastic handgun from Glock? Plastic barrel, plastic sear, plastic slide, plastic springs, and plastic firing pin? Where can I get a Glock 7?

  10. When I was younger I worked as an electrician in a hospital’s off sight testing lab. I was told if one of my tools stuck to the MRI, which was not turned on, it would cost 100,000+ to repair. I was on a ladder connecting lights above the machine with nines and dikes in my back pocket. It felt like a 5 year old was trying to pull me off the ladder while I was working. I always kept my pouch and bag of tools outside the room while working, the power would literally pull the tool bag against the wall from the other room.

  11. Was the MRI taken into custody? What about thee cops cuffs, badge,belt buckle, or are they aluminum?
    I think there may have been security cameras in the room……..maybe not with the magnetic field, but if there were someone has U tube gold.

  12. I’ve had two MRIs. The technician was wearing all kinds of metal objects when he was strapping me in the machine and getting things aligned. Nothing flew out of his pockets on to the machine. The magnetic field did not engage until the technician started the MRI process.

    In the “incident” reported here, the officer would have had the firearm in a secure holster. The MRI machine will not pull a gun out of a holster just walking into the suite. You would need to be close to the machine and it would need to be active. The report also talks about a doctors office and then a medical center. The MRI machine is an large and expensive machine. It would not be in a doctors office even if the doctors office was in the medical center. It would be in a seperate part of the medical center. The report also says the doctors office/medical center is on East St. Charles Road in Chicago. I can find no medical center or doctors office on East St. Charles Road. I call BS on this report.

    The ND incident on is more plausible because the person was on the table and the device was activated.

    • An MRI is always on. They it just does not start scanning until they need it to but once energized it’s always on. It’s not so powerful it will really effect jewelry and small metallic objects but a gun yes it can remove one if you were close enough. It has happened before and actually caused the gun to fire. A kid was killed a few years ago by being struck in the head by an oxygen tank while being MRI’d. Not all MRI’s are in hospitals some are owned and operated by imaging clinics and do not always go to the expense to outfit MRI rooms they way they should. Clinics and doctors offices do not have to build to the same standards as a hospital.

      • The one I saw in which the gun fired, the person being scanned was inside the machine with a fiearm. That I will buy. I will not buy other anecdotal stories of kids being hit and killed by oxygen tanks and the like without actual reports from the actual locations. Sorry but I’ve been around MRI machines as I said. The were standing right by me with metal all over there bodies and nothing was flying off of them. You would need to be really close to have a firearm pulled out of your holster. Walking in the suite would not do it. This is how stupid urban legends get started.

        • Google it. July 26th 2001 Michael Colombini 6 years old struck by oxygen tank. You can find pictures online of stuff stuck to MRI’s. and many reports of such events. While working on a suspended ceiling in a MRI room I had some pliers pulled from my hand. It took some effort but I could pull it from the MRI. Suspended ceiling in most rooms use a metal grid but it does not have enough mass to be pulled into the MRI. But a steel oxygen tank, gun, and tools do.

    • I’ve had so many MRIs that the clicking and buzzing of the machine doing its work just lulls me right to sleep. If they weren’t so expensive to run, I might go lay in one just to relax. Getting injected with contrast can be a mite stressful, though…maybe I could get them to skip that part.

      They’ll let you keep rings on, as a circular object isn’t subject to any pull when it’s inside the magnetic field (I dunno why). Belt buckles are also okay, although sometimes you can feel the magnetic field tugging on it. The techs have told me that most small metal jewelry items are okay to wear as long as they’re not prone to falling off, although the magnetic field can generate electric currents in some things, making them uncomfortably hot.

      Having a gun attached to the machine sure would be awkward… Maybe they could just leave it there. The magnet’s always on and the gun ain’t going nowhere.

  13. They could have used an armored car and drove one of these up next to the cabin where Dorner was hiding. It would have sucked the gun(s) right out of his hands and holster(s). He probably would have been thinking “WTF is that?” while they were pulling it up along side of the cabin.

    /feeble attempt at levity off

  14. Get well soon Dan! If they didn’t tell you, kidney stones tend to recur. As a career ER nurse, I tell you while not terribly dangerous, probably the most painful thing we see regularly. Better living through chemistry! Hope your nurses were quick with the drugs.

  15. So all Rahm Emanuel has to do is roll one of those MRIs right through the south side of Chicago, light it up and confiscate all the guns! Fire the cops and hire medical techs, and Obamacare pays for all of it! Brilliant!

  16. It’s possible, but seems unlikely. It would have to have been an older style “closed” bore MRI, he would have had to have been within a foot or two of it, and he would have had to have had a holster with minimal retention devices. Maybe slightly easier if it was a 3 Tesla MRI and it was cranked up at the time.

    Here’s a guy who gets his drill sucked into the bore: ( ) it happens about 36 seconds in. You can see how close he is, and he was probably surprised enough and just let it go.

    Yes, things get stuck to MRIs. Yes, bad things can happen if large or dense magnetic materials get near the bore ( ). Yes, some things (like coins) DO have an annoying tendency to find their ways into the scanner room and get stuck on the outside. But I don’t see this happening unless he was basically picking at the shell of the MRI or leaning into the bore at the time with his gun unsnapped.

    If it did happen, it gets removed by shutting down the MRI. As mentioned, shutting it down, letting it drain, and then starting it back up, can take a day or more and costs a hefty chunk (not including lost scan time). They will not be amused.

    To some of the posters, it only matters if it’s magnetic or not. Things including (amongst others) metals composed of iron, nickel and cobalt. Most of your accessories and jewelry are made of gold, silver, platinum, aluminum, etc. and is therefore non-magnetic. Some are of such low attraction as to be basically non-magnetic (such as copper, which is used in most MRI coils).

    • Guess confirmed by Avid Reader. Still seems pretty implausible. He must have been practically leaning on the scanner.

  17. Dan,

    Pretty sure you had a CT and not an MRI. MRI for kidney stones is a lousy prospect, I guess it might work but CT of the abdomen and pelvis takes about 20 seconds of scan time versus 20-30 minutes minimum for MRI. They probably rolled you PAST the MRI scanner and put you in the CT. CT sees kidney stones like a big dog, MRI not so much and the resolution on MRI is about 1/4 that of CT, so when a 3mm stone can ruin your day you want a CT and not an MRI.

    A 1.5T closed-bore MRI like the one pictured has a dumbell-shaped magnetic signature that is more prominent at the ends than the sides. Depending on the type of firearm it can very well grab that sucker HARD within a few feet of the bore entrance, and it won’t let go. The more steel in the weapon the harder it’s going to grab. I’ve seen it make a scalpel blade on a plastic handle hop a couple of inches when within a couple of feet of the bore, and as such I do MRI breast biopsies with titanium blades now instead of steel.

    The MRI is always on. Under the shell are two big iron hoops, wrapped in superconducting wire and bathed in liquid helium in one vacuum bottle. That vacuum bottle is bathed in liquid nitrogen in yet another bottle. To turn the electromagnet off, you have to allow the cryogens to boil off. Refilling the cryogens used to be about $30,000…but liquid helium is more expensive than it used to be. Wouldn’t want to hazard a guess as to the cost now but it’s easily mid-5 figures. The only thing that turns on and off in a MRI is the magnetic gradient coils and the RF transmit-receive arrays. The main magnet is far and away the strongest and it’s always on.

    Most patients do not know the difference between CTs and MRIs these days. MRIs take longer and are noisier is about the only way you can tell the difference in some models. CTs tend to be shorter in terms of how much of your body is in the magnet at a given time, but if the techs around you are wearing watches then you are in a CT, not an MRI. MRI gacks mechanical watches (even the Rolex Milgauss is only good up to 1.0T) and isn’t all that great for the electronic kind either. Nonferrous metal is safe in MRI rooms, so alumimum, etc. is kosher.

  18. Agreed that you probably had a CT….I just went through the same experience with the stones…not pleasant.

    My last MRI I was told to keep my wedding ring on. While in the machine, I could feel it vibrating, I thought it was my imagination, but I could see it moving. A little disheartening. They also make you sign a waiver stating that you don’t have any metal, such as shrapnel,etc. in your body. I has previously had a metal shaving removed from my eye, when I informed the tech, they required an x-ray to verify it was gone. I imagine having a metal sliver pulled from one’s eye through the back of the head to be unpleasant.

  19. Just leave it stuck there until the next scheduled maintennce. It won’t shoot anyone on its own. If you’re worried about it, just stick a cast iron frying pan over it.

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