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Washington Adventist Hospital Implants Region’s First MRI-Safe Pacemaker

Story By Diana McFadden

Last week Washington Adventist Hospital (WAH) became the first hospital in the Mid-Atlantic region to implant a new pacemaker designed to be compatible with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exams. This comes just one week after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved this first-of-its-kind device.

“Our cardiac team is dedicated to offering our patients the most advanced treatments available,” commented James Cockrell, electrophysiologist at WAH who implanted the device. “Providing pacemaker patients with a device that is MRI safe means better and safer detection and treatment of serious medical conditions, such as vascular disease, stroke, cancer and orthopedic injuries. It’s revolutionary for our patients.”

Pacemakers are surgically implanted devices that generate electrical impulses to treat stalled heartbeats. An estimated 200,000 pacemaker patients a year cannot receive an MRI to diagnosis a medical problem because of the potential for the machine's magnetic fields to interfere with pacemaker operation, according to Medtronic, the maker of the device.

MRI is a common medical imaging technique that provides a detailed view of the internal body structure. MRI is often preferred by doctors because it provides a level of detail and clarity not offered by other imaging tools. There’s also no radiation used with MRI.

The Revo MRI SureScan Pacing System has a function that can be turned on before a scan in order to prepare patients for the MRI machines. The function reduces or eliminates potential MRI hazards.

The patient who received this device is a 74-year-old man with a history of stroke and peripheral vascular disease. “This patient will need an MRI in about a month to determine the best treatment for his vascular condition,” said Dr. Cockrell. “The MRI-safe pacemaker will allow doctors to more accurately diagnose his condition and quickly begin treatment.”

The number of patients with pacemakers is growing at the same time that the use of MRI is increasing. It has been estimated that there is a 50 to 75 percent chance that a cardiac device patient will need an MRI over the lifetime of their devices.

“We are pleased to provide innovative, high-quality care to our patients and to mark another regional-first in cardiac care at Washington Adventist Hospital,” said Joyce Portela, senior executive officer.

Many of the region’s “firsts” in cardiac care were performed at Washington Adventist Hospital, including the first open heart surgery, first heart bypass, first heart catheterization and first Mini-Maze to correct atrial fibrillation.