MRIs Possible for People with Implanted Cardiac Devices Safe for 90% of Referred Patients

From Froedtert Today, September 2013 issue

As technology evolves, more people are reaping the lifesaving benefits of pacemakers and other implanted cardiac devices. One downside was that these patients couldn’t have magnetic resonance imaging, if needed, because it was thought to hamper the devices. However, Froedtert Hospital is among an elite number of hospitals able to safely perform MRIs for these patients, even on pacemakers and defibrillators that in the past have been considered ineligible for MRI scans.

“MRIs help us diagnose a wide variety of health conditions and are used in planning surgery,” said Jason Rubenstein, MD, Medical College of Wisconsin cardiologist and co-director of the Cardiac MRI Program.

Bill’s Story

Bill Rouman of Elm Grove was one such patient. Bill and his wife, Diane, had attended a luncheon last summer. When the couple got up to leave, Diane noticed Bill wasn’t saying anything. “She said, ‘talk to me,’ but I really couldn’t,” Bill said. He was taken by ambulance to the Emergency Department at Froedtert Hospital.

A CT scan and other tests pointed to an epileptic seizure or a small stroke, but a brain MRI could reveal the answer. 

A retired anesthesiologist, Bill asked his cardiologist if he could have such a test with his pacemaker. He was surprised and pleased that the answer was yes. 

Many Eligible

About 90 percent of patients referred to the Cardiac MRI Program are able to get MRIs because of the hospital’s high patient volumes and experience with cutting-edge research. Specialists work with referring physicians to screen patients and help ensure the procedure can be done safely. Cardiologists and radiologists collaborate to interpret the images, and work with the patients’ doctors for follow-up.

“Dr. Rubenstein was with me the whole time during the process,” said Bill. The MRI confirmed that he had experienced a small stroke, not a seizure. Bill was prescribed a daily aspirin regimen, and he stopped taking the anti-seizure medicine he had begun taking as a precaution.

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