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Compatible heart devices

In heart and health

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Patients with pacemakers now have an important diagnostic tool - magnetic resonance imaging - accessible to them.

The pain in Ashok Roy's lower back had become excruciating. After a visit to an orthopaedic, this former advertising professional was told that he might be suffering from a slipped disc. To ascertain the diagnosis the doctor advised 58-year-old Roy to undergo a simple Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan. But for Roy it meant more problems. 

Roy had suffered a black out couple of years ago following which a pacemaker was fitted into his body to monitor the electrical signals of the heart. But because MRI is contraindicated in patients with pacemakers and implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (commonly known as ICD), this diagnostic test was off limit for Roy. (The powerful magnetic and radiofrequency fields generated during imaging may damage device components, inhibit pacemaker function, trigger rapid pacing and deliver inappropriate shocks. )

Thousands of patients in India with implanted pacemakers to regulate heart rhythms or ICDs to prevent sudden cardiac death (SCD) have suffered for long from not being able to undergo an MRI scan - the gold standard for soft tissue imaging and critical for the diagnosis of conditions such as cancer and strokes. Now, there's good news in the offing for Roy and patients like him.

Heart devices will no longer hinder them from undergoing an MRI scan as they have finally become MRI compatible. Experts say that every five minutes, globally, a patient is denied an MRI because of an implantable cardiac device. Additionally, 50 per cent to 75 per cent of patients with ICDs will have to undergo MRI scans over the lifetime of their device.

Doctors from Delhi's Escorts Heart Research Institute implanted the first MRI-compatable ICD from Biotronik on a 69-year-old patient, this week. The patient, Ashok Trikha, was brought to Escorts with symptoms of sustained ventricular tachycardia - an abnormally fast heart rate in the lower chambers of the heart. The team of Dr Anil Saxena and Dr Aparna Jaswal saved his life by implanting India's first MRI-compatible ICD. "Physicians can now implant an advanced, high quality device that treats life-threatening arrhythmias, and also allows the use of MRI to diagnose serious co-morbidities, " says Jaswal.

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