Can you get an MRI with titanium rods? (+3 tips)

In this article, we will discuss whether you can get an MRI scan with titanium rods installed in your spinal cord for spinal fusion.

Can you get an MRI with titanium rods?

Yes, you may get an MRI with titanium rods. However, they may produce some level of artifact (a feature present in an image that is not otherwise present in the subject) during imaging. Still, titanium rods are known to cause the least amount of artifact as compared to other metals (1).

Titanium is a strong and extremely biocompatible paramagnetic material that does not interfere with the magnetic field and resonance of MRI, making it safe for the patient and MRI imaging. Titanium has low electrical conductivity as compared to other metals (2).

Metals used in spinal fusion often interfere with the imagining by producing artifacts, thereby reducing the diagnostic value of an MRI. This may cause misinterpretation of results. Before suggesting an MRI, the physician should evaluate the significance of an MRI over image distortion.

What does research suggest?

In one of the studies, researchers established that titanium and valium rods placed in porcine torso were found to have the least artifact and better diagnostic quality as compared to stainless steel rods (1).

In another study, lumbar spine implants that consisted of either titanium alloy or titanium with cobalt-chromium alloy (titanium-cobalt) were placed in a human cadaver spine section, followed by MRI.

The image quality was graded by nine physicians (from three different subspecialties). Titanium-based implants had higher imaging scores (18.16) compared to titanium-cobalt implants (17.45), indicating greater clarity of an MRI (3).

In another report, MRI of patients with cobalt-chromium alloy rods (n=6) had a 3.5 cm larger artifact in MRI scan as compared to patients who had titanium rods installed in their spine. However, the artifact did not interfere with the evaluation of the spinal canal and adjoining nerves (4).

Who cannot have an MRI with titanium rods?

Due to the use of strong magnets, MRI is not recommended in the following conditions (with or without titanium rods):

  • Cardiac devices: Patients with an MRI-compatible pacemaker system or implantable cardiac defibrillator should wait for a minimum of six weeks before an MRI scan.
  • Intracranial aneurysm clips: If the clip is made of a ferromagnetic metal, then MRI should not be recommended to such patients as the clip may interfere with the magnetic field.
  • Cochlear implants: According to a recent study, MRI-related complications with common in patients with cochlear implants despite following the manufacturer’s guidelines (5).
  • Implantable drug infusion pumps: Some patients may experience inaccurate medication dosing and mechanical problems from implantable pumps after an MRI scan.
  • Neurostimulators: Deep brain stimulator electrodes and spinal cord simulator may interfere with the magnetic field. Therefore, caution is required.
  • Insulin pumps: Insulin pumps should not be exposed to the high magnetic field of MRI. It may interfere with the motor present in the pump, altering the dose of insulin (6).

What is a safer alternative to MRI with titanium rods?

Your doctor may recommend a CT scan (computed tomography) instead of MRI. A CT scan takes a series of X-ray pictures of blood, bones and soft tissues. However, they are not as effective as an MRI in exposing subtle differences between certain types of tissues.

Ultrasound is also a good alternative to MRI. Ultrasound is used to evaluate soft tissues around the joints. It is less time-consuming, cheaper, and has 4-5 times better resolution than an MRI (7).

In the case of breasts, mammographs are preferred over MRI and CT scans. A mammogram is a low-dose imaging test that can spot changes in the breast tissues. 3D mammograms should be preferred over 2D mammograms for women with dense breasts (8).

How to reduce artifact in an MRI with titanium rods?

Image distortion and artifact in an MRI can be reduced by using the latest technology machine, proper maintenance, and optimizing the following (2):

  • Magnetic resonance pulse sequence, and
  • Optimizing scanning parameters.

Some small changes in the scan protocol can reduce image distortion and artifact. The radiologist must maintain a good signal-to-noise ratio and use spin echo instead of gradient echo. It is preferable to generate shorter echo spacing and smaller water-fat shifts.

Although a physician, we can never be sure about MRI-associated complications. However, advancements in technology have made it possible to design implants that are compatible with MRI scans. One such example is the Implanon (Entonogestrol) implant.

It is a single-rod, nonmetallic, sub-dermal device that is safe with MR procedures at all static magnetic field strengths. It is an effective contraceptive device. However, you should get the Implonon implant removed past its expiry date as it may cause side effects.

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Knott PT, Mardjetko SM, Kim RH, Cotter TM, Dunn MM, Patel ST, Spencer MJ, Wilson AS, Tager DS. A comparison of magnetic and radiographic imaging artifact after using three types of metal rods: stainless steel, titanium, and vitallium. The Spine Journal. 2010 Sep 1;10(9):789-94.


Kim YH, Choi M, Kim JW. Are titanium implants actually safe for magnetic resonance imaging examinations?. Archives of plastic surgery. 2019 Jan;46(01):96-7.


Trammell TR, Flint K, Ramsey CJ. A comparison of MRI and CT imaging clarity of titanium alloy and titanium alloy with cobalt-chromium-alloy pedicle screw and rod implants in the lumbar spine. JBJS. 2012 Aug 15;94(16):1479-83.


Ahmad FU, Sidani C, Fourzali R, Wang MY. Postoperative magnetic resonance imaging artifact with cobalt-chromium versus titanium spinal instrumentation: presented at the 2013 Joint Spine Section Meeting. Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine. 2013 Nov 1;19(5):629-36.


Alberalar ND, Reis J, Piechotta PL, Beetz NL, Fehrenbach U, Geisel D, Thomas A, Busse H, Denecke T. Complications of cochlear implants with MRI scans in different body regions: type, frequency and impact. Insights into Imaging. 2023 Jan 16;14(1):9.


Dal Molin R, Hecker B. Implantable medical devices MRI safe. InpHealth 2013 2013 (pp. 96-100). IOS Press.


Wink MH, Wijkstra H, De La Rosette JJ, Grimbergen CA. Ultrasound imaging and contrast agents: a safe alternative to MRI?. Minimally Invasive Therapy & Allied Technologies. 2006 Jan 1;15(2):93-100.


Rimer BK, Trock B, Engstrom PF, Lerman C, King E. Why do some women get regular mammograms?. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 1991 Mar 1;7(2):69-74.