Harvard Men's Health Watch

MRI is safe for most people with pacemakers and defibrillators

In the journals

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has long been considered dangerous for people who have electronic heart devices like pacemakers and defibrillators implanted in their bodies. Now, a study published online Aug. 14, 2017, by the Journal of Clinical Electrophysiology suggests the scans are safe for most people with these devices.

Until recently, most devices were not FDA-approved for MRI. They had been considered risky because it was feared that the high-strength magnetic fields used for the scanning could disrupt a pacemaker’s or defibrillator’s circuits. Yet, when researchers reviewed 212 MRI examinations involving 178 patients with these nonapproved devices, they did not find a single problem with how they functioned. The researchers concluded that MRI is safe for someone with a device implanted after 2000, as long as the device is checked before and after the procedure and its pacing function is monitored during the scan.

In the last seven years, the FDA has approved newer and more expensive devices that are designed to be safe for MRI; these are labeled “MRI conditional.” However, the researchers noted that you don’t need to replace your older device with an MRI-compatible model before getting a scan.

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