Safety and Efficacy of MRI Scans in Patients With Implanted Microvascular Coupling Devices

Neelam Phalke, W. Walsh Thomas, James Azzi, Ryan J. Li, Daniel Petrisor, Mark K. Wax

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To demonstrate the safety and compatibility of microvascular couplers in patients undergoing postoperative magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans. Study Design: Retrospective case series. Methods: A consecutive review of 1,252 patients undergoing free tissue transfer for head and neck reconstruction at Oregon Health and Sciences University (OHSU) between 2010 and 2017 who had microvascular coupler Synovis, Baxter Deerfield, IL (Synovis Life Technologies, Saint Paul, MN) implantation were reviewed. One hundred fifteen patients had a subsequent MRI scan, which consisted of a variety of Phillips (Amsterdam, Netherlands) MRI machines ranging from 1.0 to 3.0 Tesla (T) in magnetic strength. Results: These 115 patients underwent 121 free flaps with 131 couplers (including 32 flow couplers) utilized for venous anastomoses. Couplers ranged in size from 1.5 to 4.0 mm (3.0 mm [42%] followed by 3.5 mm [21%], 2.5 mm [19%], 2.0 mm [10%], 4.0 mm [6%], and 1.5 mm [2%]. Three hundred fifty-nine MRI scans (2 days to 91 months postoperatively) were obtained with 233 MRIs for cancer surveillance, and the remaining were obtained for neurologic disease, injury, or evaluation for metastases. No complications occurred related to the MRI and the metallic components of the coupler or other metal implants, such as reconstruction bars, vascular clips, or metallic surgical mesh. Additionally, no radiology report commented on MRI distortion due to the coupler placement, which contrasts the distortion seen with the other metallic implants. Conclusion: Microvascular couplers and their constitutive stainless-steel pins have not been found to cause any complications in a large series of consecutive patients undergoing multiple MRIs with magnetic strength up to 3 T. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration advocates medical alert notification for patients with couplers; however, hesitation regarding potential MRI scanning for surveillance or otherwise is unwarranted. Level of Evidence: 4 Laryngoscope, 130:1428–1430, 2020.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1428-1430
Number of pages3
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020


  • MRI compatibility
  • MRI safety
  • head and neck reconstruction
  • microvascular coupler
  • microvascular reconstruction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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