Harvard Heart Letter

Ask the doctor: MRIs and stents

Ask the doctor

MRIs and stents

Q. I read an article about MRIs being bad for pacemakers and defibrillators. What about stents? They are metal, too. I had two stents put in a few months ago. Can I ever have an MRI?

A. Although it seems as though the wire-mesh stents used to prop open arteries should pose the same sorts of problems in an MRI as pacemakers or implantable cardioverter/defibrillators (ICDs), they don't.

Early on, doctors worried that an MRI could shake a stent out of place. If this caused even a little damage to the artery wall, a clot could form inside the stent, leading to a heart attack or sudden cardiac death. So the early recommendation was to wait at least eight weeks. By this time, cells from the artery's inner lining have grown over the stent, like ivy on a trellis, anchoring it in place. Studies from the Mayo Clinic and Oxford University have since shown that MRIs are safe even sooner after stent placement, and the FDA has approved two commonly used drug-coated stents, the CYPHER and TAXUS stents, for immediate MRI.

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