The Pet Tree House - Where Pets Are Family Too : MRI Machine Explodes At Oradell Animal Hospital, Critically Injuring Repairman The Pet Tree House - Where Pets Are Family Too : MRI Machine Explodes At Oradell Animal Hospital, Critically Injuring Repairman

Sunday, March 8, 2015

MRI Machine Explodes At Oradell Animal Hospital, Critically Injuring Repairman


Woman holding dog
Paramus, New Jersey - An MRI machine exploded during maintenance at the Oradell Animal Hospital late Friday morning, critically injuring one repairman but sparing scores of employees and animals in the hospital, Police Chief Kenneth Ehrenberg said.

The critically injured worker suffered cuts and crushing-related injuries; the other two had minor to moderate injuries including respiratory complaints, the chief said. He said their identities were being withheld pending family notification.

Responding to reports at 11:51 a.m. of a fire and an explosion at the animal hospital at 580 Winters Ave., police found the ceiling of the east wing collapsed, but the building remained structurally sound, the chief said. There was no evidence of a fire, he said.

About 60 animals and 100 employees were in the building and the staff subsequently accounted for all animals and employees.

Three men were injured, all contract workers from a private company not affiliated with the hospital.

They were in the process of removing the 10-year-old MRI machine when the explosion happened. The machine was being  leased from Advanced Veterinary Technologies, and was having software problems.

Emily Cottam, an emergency and critical care resident at the animal hospital, was in the rear of the hospital near the explosion. “The ceiling fell on my head,” she said.

Agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Occupational Safety and Health Administration are assisting in the investigation. The building will remain closed until further notice.

MRI explosions are rare but can be deadly, said Wlad Sobol, Ph.D., a medical physicist and professor of radiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine.

“I’m aware of maybe half a dozen events that led to catastrophic failure of a magnet” in the last decade, Sobol said.

Sobol, who has studied MRI explosions, said that there are two potential causes.

An MRI — magnetic resonance imaging — machine is a superconductive device, meaning it contains wire that can conduct electrical current without generating any resistance, or heat. Superconductivity happens at extremely cold temperatures, made possible by bathing the wire in liquid helium. If for some reason the superconductivity is lost — if one of the magnets in the device is dropped, for example, or the helium runs out — the large amount of energy stored inside the magnet quickly encounters resistance and releases heat.

“The amount of energy stored in a magnet like that is not trivial,” Sobol said, adding that it is equivalent to several kilograms of TNT — “It’s like a bomb in its ability to destroy stuff.”

The other possible scenario is that the ventilation system for the liquid helium becomes clogged. “The pressure will build up and the magnet will explode,” Sobol said.

Shortly after noon, about 60 people had congregated in the hospital's parking lot, along with several dogs. The staff brought animals out of the building, some on leashes, some carried in blankets and some in moving cages or hand crates.

Soon after the incident, no smoke or fire was observed coming out of the building. But A&S Drive was blocked off by police tape between Winters Avenue and Ring Road. Among the units that responded were Bergen County sheriff’s officers, Paramus and county police, and Paramus and Hackensack fire departments, the latter’s collapse team, Bergen County Hazardous Materials Unit, and the county Office of Emergency Management.


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