MRI scan now available for patients with a pacemaker | News from Whipps Cross Hospital

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MRI scan now available for patients with a pacemaker

(Photo: Michael, Devika and members of the team)


Thanks to a new collaboration between radiographers and cardiac physiologists, Whipps Cross patients with a pacemaker will now be able to have a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan at the hospital.

Before this collaboration, patients with a pacemaker that needed a scan, were either transferred or asked to go to St Bartholomew’s Hospital. This was an inconvenience not only for the patients local to Whipps Cross (most of them elderly patients) but also for the hospital as they were not able to offer the service to the high number of patients that have a pacemaker or a similar device.

“We didn’t have the cardiac support before,” said Devika Ghisayawan, MRI modality lead at Whipps Cross. “But myself and the cardiac team at St Bartholomew’s worked together on policies and pathways for patients and we created some team capacity here at Whipps which is now dedicated for these patients.”

An MRI scan uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves to produce detailed images of the inside of the body and this can cause interference on devices like pacemakers stopping the device from working properly. And this is when a cardio physiologist intervenes to provide support to adapt and monitor the pacemaker while the patient gets the scan done.

Michael Sutton, chief cardiac physiologist, who has worked with Devika in making this happen, said that the demand for MRI scans for patients with a pacemaker or similar devices is quite high across the trust, in particular Whipps Cross.

“I think it’s quite an achievement, we’ve had several meetings and it all started in 2020 so it’s been almost two years of work. Things moved quicker at the beginning of this year and we also had a new MRI scanner installed and this is what motivated us to get this going,” said Michael.

Improving patient’s experience and reducing our backlog

For Devika and Michael the introduction of this particular service has a number of benefits for our patients with a pacemaker.

“We are now going to be able to see these patients locally, so for them it will be a lot less hassle and if they are inpatients, it might even reduce their stay in the hospital as we can see them much quicker,” said Michael.

For Whipps Cross and St Bartholomew’s, this service will help to reduce the hospitals’ waiting list and their backlog.

For the MRI department at Whipps Cross, this achievement means more exposure for radiographers who have not been able to scan these types of patients.

“It’s a good training opportunity for our radiographers and we can use this as a recruitment tool as we are now one of the few centres in north east London that can scan patients with pacemakers,”, said Devika.

Looking into the future

The first Whipps Cross patient with a pacemaker was successfully scanned on 13 July and the hope is to increase the number of patients that we scan and the type of devices they use.

“At the moment we are offering this service on a Wednesday morning and depending on the type of scan we can do between one and three patients (both inpatients and outpatients) during that time,” said Devika.

“The next move is to scan patients with more complex heart devices like ICDs and CRTs.”

For Devika this achievement is all about offering patients all the care they need locally:

“This is something that I’ve been wanting to introduce for some time, it was one of the goals I set when I came to Whipps Cross because I saw the need for this and think that people shouldn’t have to travel that far for care.”

For Michael it's about bringing our services up-to-date and improving health inequality:

“This achievement is a positive example of collaboration between different teams, and this is what everyone is working towards, offering patients better care always keeping them in the centre of what we do.”