Metal clips left after surgery?
November 19, 2007 11:45 PM   Subscribe

I just discovered metal clips were left in my neck during an operation 7 years ago - are these normal?

I just had an x-ray for something unrelated. The x-ray shows about 10 metal vascular clips in my neck. I had a hemithyroidectomy 7 years ago, so I assume these were left after that operation, but I'm a little wierded out that I didn't know about them.

My questions are:

a) Is it normal for these to have been left after an operation of this kind?
b) Shouldn't they have told me.

Oh and c) would it be really yucky if I'd unknowngly had an MRI?
posted by girlgeeknz to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh and here's the x-ray
posted by girlgeeknz at 11:46 PM on November 19, 2007

I'd think an MRI would have been lethal, but IANAD.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:50 PM on November 19, 2007

It's totally normal. They're used to close off arteries that are too big to cauterize, so they don't keep bleeding.

Most surgeons are using MRI-compatible (i.e. non-ferromagnetic) clips these days, but don't take my word for it. I have no idea what your surgeon used.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:51 PM on November 19, 2007

It's the sort of thing I'd like to know about, if it were my neck, but I've never had anything like that experience, so I guess I can't speculate on it's normality.

I would think it's the sort of thing the person should know, as one of those things you might need to disclose in an emergency or whatever.
posted by sycophant at 11:53 PM on November 19, 2007

Response by poster: ikkyu2 - should they have told me?
posted by girlgeeknz at 12:03 AM on November 20, 2007

I don't know.
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:07 AM on November 20, 2007

Shouldn't they tell you or give you a small wallet-sized card to carry with you in the event that an airport security detector buzzes upon entrance? My mother has this for a metal implant. (Or perhaps its enough in quantity to trigger it...) Just wondered!
posted by Asherah at 12:22 AM on November 20, 2007

Most surgical metal doesn't trigger airport stuff these days - I have bolts in my hand that don't do anything. It's not quantity, it's the magnetic properties, I think? Same reason they don't react to MRIs.
posted by jacalata at 12:27 AM on November 20, 2007

It has to do with the material they use. Often they can use non-ferromagnetic materials, including ceramic. (Other implants, though, require ferromagnetic materials - cochlear implants, for example, use a magnet to hold the external piece against the scalp, so obviously they'd set off a metal detector.)
posted by spaceman_spiff at 12:42 AM on November 20, 2007

I srongly suspect that these are non-ferromagnetic, otherwise you would have been informed.

It may be that the surgeon spoke to you post-op but you have no clear memory of the conversation. This would normally be summarised here in the UK and on the continent in a discharge note to your family physician, now routinely copied to the patient.

Surely a letter to the surgeon asking for details will clear this up?
posted by Wilder at 1:08 AM on November 20, 2007

Staples are completely normal. No, they don't give you a wallet card like an implant. Staples/clips are very common place in surgery, especially general and vascular surgery.
posted by 6:1 at 1:26 AM on November 20, 2007

Fwiw, if they're safe for MRI, then the magnenometers at the airport wouldn't even see them.
posted by cmiller at 2:26 AM on November 20, 2007

Staples like this are quite common, so I am not suprised if they didn't tell you.

You may be OK in an MRI. If they are non magnetic, they won't move (or shouldn't move much, anyway). The bigger problem is heating.

There are whole engineering courses on metal heating through magnetic induction, and I'll spare you the details. Suffice it to say that there is a non-trivial risk of these things heating up, and becoming... uncomfortable.

You should contact the facility that performed your surgery and get a copy of the records to provide to the MRI tech if you should ever need an MRI done. That tech can assess the risks and let you know if you are likely to have difficulty.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:36 AM on November 20, 2007

It may be that the surgeon spoke to you post-op but you have no clear memory of the conversation.

Seconding Wilder, after my surgeries, I've found that because of the narcotics, or the stress, or both, I haven't remembered a lot of what happened, things that I read and what people said to me right afterwards.

I really hope you contact the hospital or surgeon and find that there was really no danger.
posted by JimN2TAW at 8:45 AM on November 20, 2007

Seconding Pogo_Fuzzybutt's suggestion to get the records. I know that if I saw a shadow of a clip on the alignment scan, I wouldn't go ahead with the scan without covering my ass.
posted by dmd at 10:00 AM on November 20, 2007

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