MRI With Pacemaker: Is It Safe?

August 30, 2021 – 4 min read

Share this post:

An MRI With a Pacemaker: Is It Safe?

For years, combining an MRI with a pacemaker was unthinkable. It wasn’t even an option. The risk was too great, regardless of whether a traditional or stand-up MRI machine was used. However, science constantly improves and new technologies get developed—and pacemakers haven’t been left behind.

Understanding Pacemakers

Powered by a small battery, a pacemaker is an implantable cardiac device that keeps your heart beating at a healthy pace. When your heart rhythm falls out of sync or slows down too much, the pacemaker sends an electric signal that gets your heart back on beat. In some cases, a similar implantable device called a defibrillator is used to speed up, slow down or restart the heart’s rhythm.

Most of the time, patients with pacemakers or defibrillators don’t notice the devices and go about their lives. When patients need imaging studies, however, they can’t ignore their devices any longer.

MRI–Pacemaker Incompatibility

Incompatibility between MRI scans and pacemakers was a serious problem, because more than half of those with a pacemaker or defibrillator need an MRI after implantation, according to the American College of Cardiology.

Older devices carried a risk for adverse events. When an MRI took images, the powerful magnets had the ability to modify the pacemaker’s settings. This posed a problem for patients who depended on pacemakers to control rhythm issues, and many patients were forced to ignore their need for an MRI. Occasionally, someone in a dire situation would have their pacemaker removed from their body, only to have it re-implanted after an MRI.

With so many pacemaker wearers needing MRI, something had to change. Otherwise, patients faced the risk of harm during an MRI or the equal risk of not undergoing an MRI to diagnose health issues. New pacemaker technology means this doesn’t have to be the case any longer.

Finding an MRI-Compatible Pacemaker

To help patients with pacemakers be able to safely access much-needed imaging studies, developers updated the pacemaker’s design to be MRI compatible.

One of the first compatibilities came via pacemakers developed with safe mode. This adjustment opened the door for improved health among pacemaker patients. With safe mode, the pacemaker essentially pauses activity as the patient undergoes an MRI. Once the MRI is complete, the pacemaker is turned back on and gets back to work.

An even better solution is the MRI-compatible device. Also known as MR-conditional devices, these require continuous cardiac monitoring during an MRI. They perform so well that there are more than a dozen options from which to choose.

Prior to an MRI, an expert evaluates the MRI-compatible pacemaker’s function. To undergo an MRI while wearing a pacemaker, a few conditions must be met. The pacemaker must be in good working order among other benchmarks. After the scan, the device’s function is reviewed again and reprogrammed as necessary.

Wait Time Before an MRI

If you’ve recently had a pacemaker implanted, you may wonder how long until you can undergo an MRI. Currently, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. For the best answer, talk with your doctor. And if you’re curious how MRI affects your body, we’ve got you covered.

Other Scans and Your Pacemaker

Now that you know you can undergo an MRI with your pacemaker, you may wonder what other scans you can receive with a pacemaker. Unless you have other health conditions, you’re eligible for any imaging exam your doctor prescribes.

That includes the following:

  • Breast MRI—can spot tumors that mammogram may miss
  • CT scan—creates pictures of bones, blood clots, tumors, organs and more
  • Digital X-ray—used to image bone and other issues
  • Fibroscan—a noninvasive method to diagnose liver diseases
  • Myelogram—innovative way to diagnose spinal and nervous system issues
  • Ultrasound—visualizes babies in the womb, as well as health problems with abdominal organs such as the liver and kidneys


At American Health Imaging, we offer the best technology, great patient experiences and clear images for quick, accurate diagnoses. With multiple MRI options, we make it easy for you to get scanned and get on with life. Whether you have a pacemaker or not, we’re ready to help get to the bottom of your health issue. Learn more about our MRI services and get your cost estimate today.