UC Davis patient receives Sacramento's first MRI-safe pacemaker

Pacemaker procedure © UC Regents
UC Davis cardiologist Uma Srivatsa gave an MRI-safe pacemaker to Russ Hubbard, making him the first patient in the Sacramento area to have the device.

Posted May 4, 2011

UC Davis Medical Center cardiologists have given the first patient in the Sacramento area 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.

"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."

About cardiovascular care at UC Davis

UC Davis is a leader in developing and refining new cardiology devices and bringing them to heart patients at UC Davis Health System and beyond. As a result, we offer all current, less-invasive approaches for closing holes in the heart, repairing leaky valves, correcting short circuits, regulating heart rates, opening blocked arteries and more, providing important alternatives for high-risk surgical patients and helping others postpone or avoid surgery altogether. Learn more by visiting the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine website.

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 cardiovascular medicine, 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 Sacramento area to receive the MRI-safe pacemaker.

Photograph of pacemaker used in this procedure © UC Regents
The new pacemaker has redesigned components that can operate properly during an MRI.

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 https://www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/medicalcenter/