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SJCH Implants first MRI-Compatible Pacemaker in Kern County

News Add this to San Joaquin Community Hospital’s (SJCH) growing list of health care firsts: The hospital has successfully implanted the first MRI-compatible pacemaker in Kern County.

Developed by Medtronic, The Revo MRI™ SureScan® Pacemaker System is the first and only pacemaker in the U.S. specifically designed for use in a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) environment. Prior to the Revo MRI SureScan pacing system, MRI procedures for patients with implanted pacemakers were not recommended because these patients might face serious complications, such as interference with pacemaker operation, damage to system components or pacemaker dislodgement.

“We’re excited about this breakthrough in pacemaker technology,” said Dr. Oriento Esposo, the cardiologist who performed the inaugural pacemaker operation at SJCH. “Finally, pacemaker technology has caught up with other areas of health care, such as MRI. It’s going to make a big difference for our patients.”

It has been estimated that there is a 50 to 75 percent probability that cardiac device patients will be indicated for an MRI over the lifetime of their pacemaker device. For Abraham Morales – Kern County’s initial recipient of the first Revo MRI SureScan pacing system – and his family, concerns about conflicts between his pacemaker and a potential MRI are no longer on the radar.

“First of all, I’m glad my dad made it through his surgery without any problems and is now able to breathe better,” said Rachel Escoto, Morales’ daughter. “Plus, we now have peace of mind knowing that he can get an MRI if needed without having to worry about complications with his pacemaker.”

The Importance of MRI
Each year, nearly 320,000 pacemakers are implanted in patients in the U.S. Additionally, around 40 million MRI scans are performed per year – a number that is continuing to grow. With the prevalence and necessity for both of these innovative technologies, approximately 200,000 people annually have not been able to receive MRI due to potential pacemaker complications.

Often, this can be a detriment to patients.

When compared with other diagnostic imaging procedures, such as CT scans or X-rays, MRI is usually preferred by physicians because it provides a level of detail and clarity not offered by other imaging methods. Dr. Donald Cornforth, founder of SJCH’s Quest Imaging, elaborates on the benefits of MRI.

“For injuries to important areas such as the brain, spine and joints, other methods of diagnosis can’t compare with the sophistication of MRI,” Cornforth said. “The key to MRI technology is that it shows cartilage and ligaments, whereas X-rays and CT scans are not able to show that level of detail.”

For some patients, this can mean the need for invasive procedures not only to fix a problem, but simply to diagnose the pain or illness.

“Take, for example, a person having joint problems,” Cornforth said, “If you weren’t able to perform an MRI, it could mean having to do surgery just to find out what is wrong with the joint. Similarly with a brain tumor or stroke, we could perform a CT scan for diagnosis, but it’s much less thorough than MRI.”

“With MRI becoming more and more popular for diagnosis, it’s important that we work diligently to provide cutting-edge technology for our patients that won’t inhibit their future options,” said Mike Pelzer, director of the SJCH Cath Lab. “By having the MRI-compatible pacemaker available, we can give our patients the best of both worlds.”

With its long list of community firsts – including being the first hospital in Kern County to perform open-heart surgery – SJCH has been a pioneer in bringing new and innovative technology to Kern County. Now, patients who come to SJCH in need of a pacemaker will leave knowing that having it won’t limit future diagnostic options. For SJCH staff and physicians, working hard for the betterment of the community, has always been priority number one. When such skill and compassion merge with the latest technology, everyone wins – especially the patient. Just ask Abraham Morales.

“The doctors, nurses and everyone at the hospital were great,” Morales said. “When I first got to the hospital I could barely walk and was having a lot of trouble breathing. But now, I feel great. It’s truly amazing.”

Many of the statistics and facts contained in this report are courtesy of Medtronic. Read more about the Revo MRI™ SureScan® Pacemaker System at