A protocol for patients with cardiovascular implantable devices undergoing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): should defibrillation threshold testing be performed post-(MRI)

  • Peter Thomas Burke
  • Hamid Ghanbari
  • Patrick B. Alexander
  • Michael K. Shaw
  • Marcos Daccarett
  • Christian MachadoEmail author



Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in patients with Cardiovascular Implantable Electronic Devices (CIED) has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Recent data suggests MRI as a relative rather than absolute contraindication in CIED patients. Recently, the American Heart Association has recommended defibrillation threshold testing (DFTT) in implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) patients undergoing MRI. We evaluated the feasibility and safety of a protocol for MRI in CIED patients, incorporating the new recommendations on DFTT.


Consecutive patients with CIED undergoing MRI were included. The protocol consisted of continuous monitoring during imaging, device interrogation pre- and post-MRI, reprogramming of the pacemaker to an asynchronous mode in pacemaker-dependent (PMD) patients and a non-tracking/sensing mode for non-PMD patients. All tachyarrhythmia therapies were disabled. Devices were interrogated for lead impedance, battery life, pacing, and sensing thresholds. All patients with ICD underwent DFTT/defibrillator safety margin testing (DSMT) post-MRI.


A total of 92 MRI’s at 1.5 Tesla were performed in 38 patients. A total of 13 PMD patients, ten ICD patients, four cardiac resynchronization therapy with defibrillator (CRT-D) patients, and 11 non-PMD patients were scanned from four major manufacturers. No device circuitry damage, programming alterations, inappropriate shocks, failure to pace, or changes in sensing, pacing, or defibrillator thresholds were found on single or multiple MRI sessions.


Our protocol for MRI in CIED patients appears safe, feasible, and reproducible. This is irrespective of the type of CIED, pacemaker dependancy or multiple 24-h scanning sessions. Our protocol addresses early detection of potential complications and establishes a response system for potential device-related complications. Our observation suggests that routine DFTT/DSMT post-MRI may not be necessary.


Magnetic resonance imaging MRI Cardiac implantable electronic device CIED Pacemaker ICD Defibrillator threshold testing Defibrillation safety margin testing DSMT 



We would like to specially thank the outstanding work of the Providence Hospital Heart Institute Pacemaker Clinic staff: Kim Bean, Michele Robinson and Amber Simms; Tim McElroy; the Providence Hospital Heart Institute Electrophysiology staff: Jessica Ottino, Jon Owings, Manu Seghal, Cathy Bell, Cordell Hastings, Midodrag Nedeljkovic, and Lisa Olson as well as the Providence Hospital Magnetic Resonance Imaging technicians and Department of Radiology.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Thomas Burke
    • 1
  • Hamid Ghanbari
    • 1
  • Patrick B. Alexander
    • 1
  • Michael K. Shaw
    • 1
  • Marcos Daccarett
    • 1
  • Christian Machado
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Providence Heart Institute, Providence HospitalSouthfieldUSA

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