Healthwise: MRI Compatible Pacemakers

By: Stephanie Satchell Email
By: Stephanie Satchell Email

February 16, 2011

Getting an MRI is a good way to look at joints, the brain and other tissues that some types of imaging devices can't get to. But for patients who are managing their heart’s rhythm with a pacemaker, having an MRI hasn't been an option until now.

“We always have to tell patients that they cannot undergo MRI scanning because of the intensity of the magnetic field associated with MRI scanner,” said Dr. John Zakaib, Martha Jefferson Hospital.

Now the device has a new design and Martha Jefferson doctors are offering it to their patients. The MRI-compatible pacemaker minimizes the risk associated with high intensity magnetic fields, while helping the heart beat at a more normal rate.

“The metals used in the device have been replaced with metals that are not susceptible to magnetic fields,” said Zakaib.

Doctors aren't suggesting that people with preexisting pacemakers switch, but they say patients undergoing new implants could definitely benefit from this new innovation.

“Younger patients have the longest window of opportunity to need an MRI in their life, and young, active patients who are going to wear out their joints and need spine imaging with MRI. Older patients are the most likely to need MRI imaging of joint, brain, and spine because they're at the highest risk for diseases and disorders impacting those parts of the body," said Zakaib.

Soon patients won't have to decide between treating their heart problems or getting an MRI. They'll be able to do both thanks to new cutting edge technology.

Martha Jefferson will start implanting the new MRI-compatible pacemakers on Feb. 21. The FDA approved the device earlier this month.

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