Best and Brightest: Testing MRI-Safe Pacemakers
Edward J. Schloss, Medical Director of Cardiac Electrophysiology at The Christ Hospital, was the first in the nation to implant a new MRI-safe pacemaker.
A traditional pacemaker’s job is to keep the heart from going too slow or to speed the heart up if the body’s asking for a faster heart rate. The most exciting new pacer technologies we have are pacers that are compatible with an MRI scan. Traditional pacers are considered contraindicated in MRI scanners for a variety of reasons, including pacer sensitivity to the electrical and magnetic fields emitted by the scanner—this can look like cardiac activity and thereby “fool” the device into pacing at the wrong rate—and pacer leads acting like antennae, concentrating energy to the heart, and adversely affecting the heart tissue. The design of both the hardware and software is modified to work around these issues in the MRI-compatible device. As a fella who’s had an MRI for torn knee cartilage, I know if I had told my surgeon that I couldn’t get an MRI, it would have made my care a little more difficult.