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Johns Hopkins Health - Safe Imaging for All

Fall 2012
Issue No. 18

Safe Imaging for All

Date: October 24, 2012

MRI is now an option for millions who have cardiac devices


quick consult_mri

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a powerful tool for detecting cancer, kidney disease, orthopedic injuries and more. Until recently, millions of people with implanted cardiac devices were ineligible. That all changed when Henry Halperin, M.D., professor of medicine, radiology and biomedical engineering, and Saman Nazarian, M.D., assistant professor of medicine, led a study at Johns Hopkins that resulted in the creation of a safe MRI process for these people.

Why would I need an MRI?
MRI has made a huge difference in many lives. It can help us diagnose conditions that other imaging methods, such as CT (computed tomography) and ultrasound, cannot.

What are the dangers of MRI to people with cardiac devices?
People with implanted defibrillators and pacemakers have traditionally been unable to undergo the procedure because of the risk of the MRI’s heat, vibrations and magnetic field causing the cardiac device to malfunction. The overwhelming majority of people can undergo MRI safely, but we still need more data to make sure it is safe for everyone. We think it is just a matter of time before many of the restrictions regarding the use of MRI in people with cardiac devices can be removed.

How do you make MRI safe for me?
Most cardiac devices are actually safe during MRI, but Johns Hopkins takes several precautions to make sure no harm comes to the person or to the device. We first check to make sure your cardiac device is working properly, and then we program the device into a “safe” mode for use in MRI. As you undergo your MRI scan, a specialized nurse monitors you in case there are any problems. When the scan is over, we test the cardiac device again to make sure it is working properly, and then we revert the device to the mode it was in before the MRI.

What should I do if I still have concerns?
Here at Johns Hopkins, we have performed MRIs on more than 700 people with implanted cardiac devices. We have a specialized staff, including trained nurses, with whom you can discuss any concerns.

For more information, appointments or consultations, call 877-546-1872.

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