Are MRIs Safe With Implanted Devices?

Sixty million MRI scans are performed worldwide each year. With the increasing number of patients with implanted medical devices growing every year, safety is an important topic. Are MRIs safe with implanted devices?

Person laying on MRI machine

A Complicated Answer

There are several ways to answer this question.  A magnetic resonance imaging test uses magnets and radio waves to produce clear images of the body. Certain devices like a cardiac implanted electrical device (CIED) cause concern due to the possibility of magnetic fields affecting the implant.

Old Devices

Older devices are not safe with an MRI. Older devices like a pacemaker can heat up and generate electricity while touching the heart which can burn and leave scar tissue. This can cause the heart to beat abnormally.

MRI Conditional

Some devices have been termed as “MRI conditional” like newer pacemakers and defibrillators. These are devices which may be safe, but are only used within certain limits. Technicians are careful about the following:

  • The amount of energy used
  • The amount of time to do the scan
  • Limited kind of images

Remote Programming

Some of the most worrisome conditions have been answered by the recent ability to remotely program devices. Using the Medtronic RM CareLink Technology, a scan can safely be performed. As the scan begins, the technician contacts an off-site operator as he or she places a wand on the patient’s device. This allows the programmer to access the device remotely and switch it to an “MRI safe mode”. After the scan, the remote programmer returns the device to the patient’s baseline settings.

This new technique will allow more patients to have an MRI and will also save time and money since this can be completed remotely.

How Patients Can Help

Whenever you have a device implanted anywhere in your body, you are given a card which identifies the make, model, manufacturer, with a website and phone number. Put that identification card in a safe place should you need it in the future. If you need an MRI later in life, that card can be accessed with the vital information doctors will need. Without it, your MRI will be needlessly delayed and can result in a delayed diagnosis.

Contact Southwest Diagnostic Imaging Center at (214) 345-6905 if you have been referred for an MRI and you have an implanted medical device.