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MRI and Pacemakers

Patients with cardiac pacemakers are unable to receive MRI scans. However, advancements in medical technology will soon make it possible for patients with certain types of pacemakers to receive potentially lifesaving MRIs.

Why Are MRIs Risky for People with Pacemakers?

For those with pacemakers, MRI pose the risk of the scanner’s strong magnetic field causing the pacemaker to malfunction or its components to heat up, which could be harmful to the patient’s tissues. In fact, the American Heart Association lists MRI on a list of “devices that may interfere with pacemakers,” stating that “the magnet can interrupt the pacing and inhibit the output of pacemakers.”

The Advent of MRI-Safe Pacemakers

In February 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first ever MRI-safe pacemaker, The Revo MRI SureScan Pacing System. This system featured a function that can be turned on to ready patients for an MRI scan. While this innovative pacemaker was a major advancement for its time, it was only approved for use in MRIs for certain patients, certain body parts, and certain scanning parameters, the FDA explained. The FDA also mandated special training on the system for the cardiologists and radiologists who would be encountering it.

More recently, the FDA granted premarket approval in May of this year to BIOTRONIK’s Entovis line of single and dual chamber pacemakers that were shown in clinical trials to be MRI safe. The ProMRI technology in these pacemakers allows them to be labeled as MR conditional, BIOTRONIK explains. Patients with these pacemakers can have MRI scans with the exception of a limited exclusion zone. They need only let the radiology staff know that they have the device implanted so that the staff can make the final determination of whether the patient meets the criteria to go through with an MRI scan, BIOTRONIK notes.

The Takeaway

While the technology behind MR conditional pacemakers is still fairly new, these innovative pacemakers will someday make it possible for hundreds of patients with pacemakers to receive MRI scans without any ill effects. As the technology is investigated and improved, new and better devices could minimize risk to the point that virtually any patient with one of these new pacemakers could receive an MRI.

Seattle Diagnostic Imaging Services

Via Radiology provides Seattle radiology and diagnostic imaging procedures including bone density exams, mammography, ultrasound, MRI, PET scan exams and CT scan exams. Contact us online for more information.