Bruce Wilkoff, president-elect of the Heart Rhythm Society, hails from the Department of Cardiovascular Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic. In comments published January 19 in Medical Device Daily, Dr. Wilkoff noted that while there remains conflicting information about the impact an MRI can have on an implanted device, the fact remains that some degree of impact is possible.
For example, MRI health risks affecting patients with implanted medical devices can run from heating of the lead tip which could damage heart tissue and result in a malfunction, to the triggering of an unnecessary response from the device that could pose a danger to the patient.
"We know that those things can happen," Wilkoff said. "We also know they don't happen that often, but they do happen."
Patients with weak or malfunctioning kidneys will have an issue with an MRI contrast agent given the need to expel the contrast agent from the body quickly upon the conclusion of the scan. To that end, the continuing evolution of the relationship between MRI and kidney failure now requires an analysis of kidney function prior to MRI, followed by MRI dialysis in order to rid the body of the contrast agent in a timely manner.
While patients with healthy kidneys usually do not have that issue, those with implanted medical devices such as defibrillators represent a risk due to the intense magnetic field associated with MRI. With the aging baby boomers now hitting retirement, the largest segment of the population will soon see an increasing number of implanted medical devices.
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It should be noted that the Revo pacemaker has yet to be formally approved. However, a US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel gave the device its blessing last spring.
While the medical device advancement appears promising, there appears to be no corresponding advancement in the arena of MRI contrast agents that would prove to be a safer option for MRI kidney.