A medical professional reviewing an MRI.
It is generally safe to do magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans with the stents in place, although much of this depends on when the stent was implanted and what, exactly, it is intended to do. Stents are basically small tubes or sometimes coils that help keep arteries open. They are often used after a heart attack or in patients who are at high risk for arterial collapse. One of the biggest concerns people have when undergoing MRIs is that the magnetic force of the scans will somehow dislodge the stents. In most cases, this fear is unfounded, although it is still very important for people who have these devices to inform their healthcare professionals before undergoing this or any related procedure. Often, the care team doing the MRI is not the same person who installed the stent, so they may not know it is present. When everyone is on the same page when it comes to medical history, precautions can be taken to ensure that everything goes smoothly.
Understanding stents in general
Whether or not the doctor recommends an MRI with a stent in place depends largely on the type of stent.
Medical professionals have been using stents for heart patients for decades. The main purpose of a stent is to help keep the main arteries open so that blood can flow through them quickly and easily. There are a few reasons why arteries collapse or shrink, usually with age and often as a result of some kind of heart defect or problem; Stents are an easy and generally effective treatment option. Most aren’t permanent, though, and people who have them typically need to take certain precautions when it comes to keeping them in place and protecting their heart health in general. In almost all cases, medical tests are not on the danger list, and as such, it is generally safe to have an MRI with a stent.
Basics of MRI
It is essential for the patient to alert their physician to the presence of stents to confirm that it is safe to have an MRI.
MRIs are essentially scans of the body that can give diagnosticians a very clear view of certain internal organs or processes, without actually having to surgically open up a patient. They use magnetic energy to specifically pinpoint the location of internal organs, glands and passageways, and in most cases the results are remarkably clear and accurate.
Some patients with a stent may undergo an MRI.
The procedure is considered “non-invasive” because it does not involve incisions or internal tearing, but it is not without risk. Patients usually spend some very quiet time in an MRI machine, which is a contained space where controlled magnetic waves penetrate and ricochet. Certain implants and internal medical devices can cause problems during an MRI, especially those that are made of metal; metal can cause magnetic and radio waves to change frequency, and these types of devices can also be impacted and become less effective. Stents are typically considered “MRI safe,” but anyone with a stent in place would be wise to get a professional opinion on their specific situation before proceeding.
Concerns about the magnetic field
The question of whether doing an MRI with a stent is safe often stems from the fear that the magnetic field will dislodge the stent.
The question of whether doing an MRI with a stent is safe often stems from the fear that the magnetic field generated by the MRI will displace the stent. Most modern coronary artery stents are made of materials that do not shift as a result of an MRI, and as such, even the strongest magnetic waves do not affect them. A group of researchers in Texas in 1998 reviewed all the major coronary stents then available on the world market and found them all safe for an MRI scan.
Several studies have shown that an MRI can be safely performed one day after stent implantation, although many radiologists advise waiting several weeks before undergoing this or any related procedure. Most of this is due to healing time rather than inherent dangers. There is usually no danger to metal detector stents.
People who had a coronary stent placed after 1998 may have a drug-eluting device. These stents are similar to older bare metal stents but are coated with drugs that are released over time. This helps to prevent the blood vessel from closing again. These stents are also generally safe during an MRI, but more care may be needed to ensure that the MRI does not alter the drug delivery schedule.
Importance of Consultation
Many people with coronary artery stents also have other implanted devices that include coils, filters and wires. While having an MRI with a stent is safe, it may not be safe to have an MRI with those devices. The surgeon who performed the surgery should have more information about what devices were implanted and whether an MRI is safe, and MRI technicians who have a patient’s complete medical file can usually make better judgments, too.
Non-emergency MRIs for patients with stents may delayed while the MRI facility consults with the patient’s physicians to confirm the safety of the procedure. To avoid such a delay in emergency situations, a patient is advised to keep a card with him explaining what devices he has implanted. The card should include the phone number of both the surgeon who performed the implant and the patient’s regular physician.