What Should I Know About Getting an MRI Scan with My Implant?


MRI scans are an important tool for diagnosing many different illnesses and conditions. With each passing year, more and more patients with implanted pacemakers, defibrillators, cardiac monitors and cardiac resynchronization implants gain greater access to MRI scans. Furthermore, more and more studies have found that, with proper precautions in place, cardiac implant patients can safely access MRI scans. But, many patients still have questions about how the process works, and what they need to tell their doctors.

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I have an implant. What do I need to do before I get an MRI scan?

The most important thing that a patient can do, as soon as an MRI scan is scheduled, is tell their heart doctor (cardiologist). The cardiologist can then check to see if an implant is MRI-compatible. Some implants also have unique restrictions and these restrictions might be different depending on what year the implant was made and what company manufactured it. One of the most common restrictions has to do with what strength of magnet the MRI machine uses and whether the implant is approved for that strength. Once the cardiologist knows a patient is having an MRI scan, they can look this information up and make an appropriate plan.

Many doctors who manage MRI scanning, called radiologists, are also still unsure which implants might have restrictions. Without the specialised knowledge from your cardiologist, there’s a risk the radiologist could delay the scan while waiting for the appropriate information. Speaking to your doctor about your implant is essential.


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What will the cardiologist do before I get an MRI scan?

Your cardiologist will need to temporarily change the settings on your implant so that it continues to function but is safe to use in the MRI scanner. A heart implant’s function is controlled by software that is built into the implant. If an implant is exposed to an MRI scanner, there is a chance that the scan could interfere with the signals this software sends. To stop this from happening, cardiologists will temporarily set a patient’s implant to “MRI-safe” mode before a scan. This can mean that many of the implant’s advanced features are temporarily switched off, but basic pacing remains operational. To function fully again, the implant has to be set back to its normal programming by the cardiologist after the scan.

BIOTRONIK’s MRI AutoDetect technology helps make this process even simpler. Before a scan, the cardiologist can set the implant to automatically switch into an MRI-safe mode when it detects an MRI machine. The implant will then switch itself back into full functionality when the scan ends. This means that a patient with an implant that has MRI AutoDetect only needs to see their cardiologist before the scan, not after as well. The MRI detection lasts for 14 days from when the doctor switches it on.


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Where can I find more information?

When you speak to your cardiologist after being booked in for an MRI appointment, it’s a good time to ask questions. If you have your implant information, ProMRI SystemCheck is also a helpful tool for checking whether a particular implant is approved for MRI scanning in your country and under what conditions. For a brief explanation about how MRI AutoDetect works, you can also watch our video below. Finally, if you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact Patient Services.