Patients with properly functioning kidneys don't have to worry about MRI health risks. Or do they? Patients with pacemakers and defibrillators, before now, have had to strike a cautionary pose.
That's because of the intense magnetic field of the MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and the impact of such an intense magnetic field on metal contained in the human body. Plates, surgical staples and standard pacemakers have been, and remain, a concern.
To that end Health Canada has, in recent years, been sounding the clarion call about risks associated with old-style pacemakers and MRI.
''You could do MRIs, but it's definitely risky and, as a matter of fact, Health Canada has a strict recommendation that MRI imaging should not be performed,'' said Dr. Anne Gillis, a professor of medicine at the University of Calgary, in comments published March 1 by the Canadian Press.
''It may stop pacing or sometimes it may make the pacemakers pace really fast and precipitate potentially a life- threatening heart-related disorder,'' she said. ''The lead inside the heart can function as an antenna and conduct a radio frequency wave that can actually heat tissue and damage tissue inside the heart.''
For someone like Melanie Cruise, the inability to have a needed MRI poses an issue for her—and it has nothing to do with MRI contrast side effects. At 37, Melanie's kidneys are fine. However, she was born with a heart murmur that doctors determined could be managed most effectively with the insertion of a pacemaker.
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However, Cruise has moved on by taking part in the clinical trial studying a new generation of pacemaker by Medtronic that is MRI compatible. Health Canada is reported to have studied the clinical trial results, and the Canadian health regulator has approved the device.
Should Cruise ever develop a kidney issue after the fact, leaving her open to MRI contrast side effects, then the MRI health risk resurfaces in a different form, after which the relationship between gadolinium and dialysis becomes paramount. For now, however, the use of the next-generation pacemaker should allow Cruise to undergo MRI as needed, without concern. MRI, doctor? Sure! In a heartbeat…