Is it safe to have an MRI if I have a pacemaker?

It may be safe to have an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) if you have a pacemaker, but safety guidelines must be carefully followed and appropriate resources available, and not every hospital or MRI center is set up to perform MRIs on people with pacemakers or defibrillators.

MRIs have traditionally not been performed on people who have a cardiac pacemaker or cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) due to concerns that the magnetic field will damage the device, trigger rapid pacing or cause the lead wires that connect to the heart to overheat. In addition, the device itself may cause the MR images to be suboptimal.
And while new-generation pacemakers designed specifically for MRI compatibility received Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval in 2011, the great majority of people with pacemakers have or continue to receive conventional devices that are not conditioned for MRI.

Nevertheless, several large and small studies have focused on exploring the safety and efficacy of MRI for selected people with implanted cardiac devices. Evidence indicates that in the right clinical setting with an experienced team of cardiovascular MRI specialists, the scan can be performed safely using specific protocols. A small number of people with pacemakers, such as those with abandoned leads, may still not be able to have MRIs, even with the specific protocols.

This content originally appeared online at UCLA Health

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.