Dr. Narendra Kanuru, an electrophysiologist with WellStar’s Cardiovascular Medicine practice, implanted the Revo MRI SureScan pacing system in the male patient.
Pacemakers are primarily used to speed up a heart, but the standard version of the device can’t handle the magnetic field of the MRI machine.
“The reason an MRI could never be done with a standard pacemaker was because they actually heat up the wires and then burn the heart, or the electronics could be damaged by the magnetic field,” Kanuru said. “What’s different about this pacemaker is both the wires and the pacemaker itself were redesigned with different materials so the magnetic field would not interfere with the pacemaker. So now the electronics are able to handle a magnetic field that powerful, and the wires don’t heat up.”
The first MRI-friendly pacemaker in the United States was implanted on Tuesday, Kanuru said.
“To be the first in Georgia was a very nice thing to be able to offer our patients,” he said.
The pacemaker itself was invented about 50 years ago.
“The heart slows down and when it slows down people get tired, they might have shortness of breath, less energy and commonly pass out,” Kanuru said. “When we know about that situation, that’s when we intervene and we implant a pacemaker into somebody’s chest. The pacemaker is designed to keep their heart going at a rate that we set their pacemaker at.”
In many cases, pacemaker patients are elderly or have a conditions such as congenital heart disease, he said. Later on, the patient may have a stroke or a cancer diagnosis that is unrelated to the pacemaker, and an MRI traditionally offers the best images to help doctors locate and treat those types of health problems.
But until now, pacemaker patients could only have CT scans, which Kanuru said are not nearly as precise as an MRI. Another drawback of the CT scan is radiation exposure to the patient.
The new pacemaker is almost identical in size and shape to the earlier pacemaker, and it is implanted exactly the same way, Kanuru said. There is also no difference in terms of the patient’s recovery, he said.
Doctors won’t take out existing pacemakers and replace them with the new kind, Kanuru said, but as the months go by, the MRI-friendly version will likely become the new standard device, he said.
“Eventually everybody who gets a pacemaker, a new pacemaker, will likely get one of these pacemakers,” he said. “They’ve been working on this for about 10 years.”
Dr. Greg Simone, who founded the Cardiovascular Medicine practice in Marietta and is the former CEO of WellStar Health System, said he was very excited about the new pacemaker.
“This is a trend for where cardiac implantable devices need to go in the future,” Simone said. “Implantable devices are becoming much more sophisticated and are adding benefits to the patient. Physicians are also trying to minimize the risks, and that’s our goal.”