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Bam, bam goes the MRI

Conquest - Summer 2013

Tha-thump, tha-thump goes the pacemaker heart

Related story: Patients of all ages


By Julie Penne

Rarely are today’s cardiac pacemakers or defibrillators a second thought for patients who rely on them for an active life.

Marc Rozner, Ph.D., M.D., professor,
Department of Anesthesiology and 
Perioperative Medicine
Photo: Wyatt McSpadden

That is, until it comes time to have an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), a diagnostic test that the majority of patients at 
MD Anderson have at some point.

The MRI’s powerful magnetic and radiofrequency fields — that produce a distinctive cross-section study of the patient’s body — are the same technologies that can confuse a patient’s cardiac device.

Enter Marc Rozner, Ph.D., M.D., an anesthesiologist who splits his week between monitoring patients in surgery and those with pacemakers in the MRI bays. His equipment, focus and expertise are surprisingly similar in the two settings. He also checks patients’ pacemakers and defibrillators before and after they have surgery or an MRI, and may reset them.

While there are other specialists around the nation who monitor patients with cardiac devices in the MRI units, they are often radiologists or cardiologists. As the only anesthesiologist in the country with this specialty, Rozner also is the only specialist at a cancer center with such a practice. Professor in MD Anderson’s Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine, Rozner has a joint appointment in the Department of Cardiology.

Last year, he and his team supervised 78 MRI studies in patients with cardiac devices, almost doubling the number done in 2011. Since 2004, the team has monitored 242 MRI studies. Rozner is also studying the impact of radiation, proton therapy and chemotherapy on cardiac devices.

“This is an expanding field of research. It’s vital that we learn all we can so our patients get the best care,” Rozner says. “More and more patients are coming to us with devices, and we implant many more, unfortunately, as a result of some chemotherapies. We’re learning as we go. We must keep learning so we can improve care.”

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