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Department of Internal Medicine

Department of Internal Medicine

Department News


UC Davis Medical Center cardiologists have given the first patient in inland Northern California a new type of pacemaker that can function during magnetic resonance imaging, or an MRI.

The new device has software that can be programmed to an "MRI safe" mode and the components have been designed to resist heat and the magnetic interference experienced within an MRI scanner. These changes made it a perfect option for Russ Hubbard, who has both heart disease and stroke symptoms.

Dr. Srivatsa and her team install first MRI-safe pacemaker.
Dr. Srivatsa and her team install first MRI-safe pacemaker.

"We were concerned about Mr. Hubbard's decreased heart rate and the possibility that he may have had a brain stem stroke," said Uma Srivatsa, an associate professor of cardiology and specialist in electrophysiology approaches to cardiac care. "This new technology gave us the opportunity to address his reduced heart function without compromising his access to the kind of detailed imaging that is optimal for monitoring a potential brain event."

MRIs are ideal for visualizing tissue and other soft body structures. However getting those images requires powerful magnetic fields that can heat up the wires that connect the pacemaker to the heart, which can cause extra electrical stimulation to the heart and may damage the pacemaker.

"The pacemaker revolutionized cardiac care and has helped literally millions of people live longer, more comfortable lives by regulating their heart rates," said Srivatsa. "But we know a considerable number of those patients may need MRIs for the diagnosis of other medical conditions. This new option allows patients to benefit from both technologies."

Together with Reginald Low, UC Davis chief of cardiology, Srivatsa determined that Hubbard was an ideal candidate for the new device, which was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration this year. On April 14, he became the first in the region to receive the MRI-safe pacemaker.

A retired U.S. Air Force colonel and former Radio Shack owner from Cameron Park, Calif., Hubbard has always been quick to use new technology.

"I'm fascinated by the latest and greatest gadgets, and it's very nice to benefit personally from this one," he said.

"UC Davis is committed to meeting the needs of cardiac patients, especially when it comes to providing the most advanced therapies that will benefit the patient," said Low.

UC Davis Medical Center is a comprehensive academic medical center where clinical practice, teaching and research converge to advance human health. Centers of excellence include the National Cancer Institute-designated UC Davis Cancer Center; the region's only level 1 pediatric and adult trauma centers; the UC Davis MIND Institute, devoted to finding treatments and cures for neurodevelopmental disorders; and the UC Davis Children's Hospital. The medical center serves a 33-county, 65,000-square-mile area that stretches north to the Oregon border and east to Nevada. It further extends its reach through the award-winning telemedicine program, which gives remote, medically underserved communities throughout California unprecedented access to specialty and subspecialty care. For more information, visit the medical center website.