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Cardiovascular Report - When only an MRI will do

Cardiovascular Report Winter 2012

When only an MRI will do

Date: December 26, 2011

For some with an implanted cardiac device, having an MRI is essential for diagnosing a life-threatening condition so that the proper care can be rendered. That was the case of a 41-year-old attorney who lives in New Jersey. One night nine years ago, she had a grand mal seizure and woke up in a hospital bed. “I didn’t recognize my husband and I had temporarily lost my short- term memory,” she says. “Fortunately, my memory came back, but the following year, while pregnant, I had another seizure. I was diagnosed with epilepsy and put on antiseizure medicine.”

Despite the medication, her seizures continued. Subsequent CT scans revealed what her doctors thought was a cyst in her brain. A neurosurgeon in New York urged her to have an MRI to know for sure. But five years earlier, she had had a pacemaker implanted because of a very slow heart rate; because of the device, an MRI was thought to be unsafe.

“I searched the Internet and found research that Dr. Henry Halperin had done to allow people with pacemakers to safely have an MRI,” she says. “I contacted him and told him I really needed the test, and he said I should come to Baltimore.” The MRI revealed a benign astrocytoma, and she had it surgically removed. That was six years ago. She has not had any more seizures, does not need medication, and went on to have a second child.

Twice each year, she comes back to Hopkins for follow-up MRI tests and all is going fine. “I truly believe that having the MRI saved my life,” she says.

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