ICDs and pacemakers may be safe for MRI use after all

With all the worry that people with pacemakers or implanted cardioverter defibrillators can't have an MRI, a new study concludes the procedure may be fine for these patients anyway. If further research bears this out, what does that mean for companies--such as Medtronic ($MDT) and Boston Scientific ($BSX)--that are investing money and resources into developing special pacemakers that are MRI-safe?

Researchers from Scripps Clinic in La Jolla, CA, conducted the study, which runs in the latest issue of the American Journal of Cardiology. Reuters also offers a good highlight of the major findings, which are based on the medical records of 109 patients who have either implant and had at least one MRI because of urgent medical needs.

According to the story, technicians took precautions, like turning off the devices during the MRI scan. For patients that needed to keep the pacemaker or ICD on, caregivers avoided the issue by setting the devices to a regular rhythm compatible to the MRI's magnetic field.

In a nutshell, all of the patients survived the procedures and their devices still worked, Reuters notes. Clinicians noted some variations in electrical measurements from before and after the scans, but they didn't appear to affect the patients--none of whom suffered any heart rhythm disruptions anyway. Lead researcher Robert Russo concluded that a larger study is necessary to confirm the findings. But clinicians are performing more MRIs on patients who have ICDs or pacemakers if those patients have no alternative, Russo pointed out, according to Reuters.

Under the assumption that most existing ICDs and pacemakers aren't MRI-safe, many device companies have worked overtime to develop cardiac implants that could be safely used with the imaging equipment. Medtronic, for example, now has the FDA-approved Revo MRI SureScan pacing system on the market. And Boston Scientific's Ingenio and Advantio MRI-friendly pacemakers gained their FDA approval in May, and a CE mark just last month.

- read the story from Reuters
- here's the journal abstract

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