MRI-compatible pacemaker debuts

November 14, 2001

Strong magnetic fields should pose no danger to the users of a new implantable pacemaker from Biophan Technologies. Current pacemaker design includes a metal wire, about a foot long, that connects the pacemaker to the heart. In an MR scanner, the wire

Strong magnetic fields should pose no danger to the users of a new implantable pacemaker from Biophan Technologies. Current pacemaker design includes a metal wire, about a foot long, that connects the pacemaker to the heart. In an MR scanner, the wire can become very hot and can ablate the blood vessels, scar the heart, and potentially induce a rapid, sometimes fatal heart condition. The wire also picks up radio-frequency interference, which can impair the pacemaker’s performance. As a result, pacemakers are contraindicated with MR imaging equipment. The new technology replaces the metal electrical cable with a fiber-optic type and uses an implantable laser to regulate a patient’s heartbeat. A photodiode in the catheter’s tip, where it connects to the heart, will provide sensing functions, including R-wave analysis of the electrocardiogram, temperature, pressure, and flow. More than three million people have pacemakers, and at least 600,000 new pacemakers are implanted every year, according to Biophan spokespersons.