Takoma Park man receives one of first MRI-safe pacemakers
New technology allows pacemaker patients to receive more accurate diagnoses
A 74-year-old Takoma Park man was the first person in the Mid-Atlantic region to receive an MRI-safe pacemaker during a Feb. 16 surgery at Washington Adventist Hospital, Adventist officials announced last week.
His surgery came a week after the Food and Drug Administration approved a new Medtronic-manufactured device, which enables pacemaker patients to receive the important diagnostic procedure of an MRI.
"This new pacemaker is the beginning of an era where patients with pacemakers are able to have the best diagnostic imaging available to them for the first time," said Dr. James Cockrell, a heart rhythm specialist at Washington Adventist Hospital.
An MRI is a noninvasive procedure that renders high-resolution images of tissues to determine surgical options and the timing of treatments. The new device means patients for the first time can receive the medical imaging that diagnoses orthopedic repairs, sports injuries and other conditions. Roughly 200,000 pacemaker patients a year cannot receive an MRI and are forced to use less-reliable diagnostic tools such as a CT scan to determine treatment options, Cockrell said.
Traditional pacemakers are not MRI compatible, he said. Due to the magnetic fields used during an MRI, they can overheat during the MRI process or malfunction by either stopping or suddenly accelerating the pacing of the patient's heart, he said.
This new pacemaker developed by Medtronic, called the Revo MRI SureScan Pacing System, uses less metal and is less likely to overheat. The circuit board of the pacemaker is also separated from the metal casing of the pacemaker, which makes it less likely to break down during an MRI, Cockrell said.
The Takoma Park man who became the first person in the area to receive the MRI-safe pacemaker has a history of stroke and peripheral vascular disease and will need an MRI in about a month to determine the best treatment for his vascular condition, Cockrell said.
Medtronic of Minnesota spent more than 12 years researching, developing and testing technology that led to the new pacemaker, according to Wendy Dougherty, spokeswoman with the medical technology company.
The FDA approved the Medtronic pacemaker Feb. 8 after implanting the device in 464 patients, and testing the device during an MRI on 211 of the patients. None of those who underwent an MRI experienced an MRI-related complication, according to a press release from the FDA.
MRI-safe pacemakers are the way of the future, Cockrell said.
"In the future, years from now, all patients and their doctors will choose and MRI-compatible system," he said. "... We will be going that way as much as it is possible."