More than two million Americans have a pacemaker or a defibrillator to help regulate their hearts. Most of them can’t receive an MRI scan should they need one because an MRI magnet can overpower their implanted device, but that may be about to change.
A Minnesota company is holding a clinical trial of a defibrillator that is compatible with MRIs. Just 45 hospitals in the world are taking part in the trial, and Marquette General is one of them. Last week, Dr. Mark Cowan became the first physician in the country to implant the device in a patient.
“The problem right now is that it’s estimated that more than 60% of people who have defibrillators will be a candidate for an MRI over a ten-year span,” he said. “That’s a huge number. Right now, they can’t have MRIs.”
Marquette General is the only Michigan hospital in the trial. The lead that attaches the defibrillator to the heart is the same one that would be used in existing devices.
“The defibrillator itself, the pulse generator, the brain behind the device, is manufactured in a different way from different components that are safe in the MRI environment,” MGH cardiac electrophysiologist Dr. Rudy Evonich said.
The MRI-compatible defibrillator was recently approved for use in Europe. Marquette General has been approved for 28 patient transplants of the new device.