Annually, nearly 200,000 pacemaker patients in the U.S. are denied access to an MRI scan because of historical risks for dangerous interactions between an MRI and a pacemaker. Debbie Allen, the Emmy-award winning choreographer best known for her work in "Fame," "Grey's Anatomy," and "So You Think You Can Dance," told ThirdAge that she is dedicated to changing that statistic.
"I've had my share of MRIs," says Debbie, an active 61-year-old with a passion for heart-healthy living. "As a dancer who has been injured more than once, I know how vital that test can be. Also, heart disease runs in my family so I am personally invested in making sure that heart patients have the best treatment options possible."
To that end, Debbie has become the voice of a campaign called "Join the Pacemakers." The crusade is sponsored by Medtronics and supported by the National Council on Aging with the mission of raising public awareness about an important advancement in the fight against a potentially serious heart condition called bradychardia. Sufferers, who are often over 65, have abnormally slow and irregular heartbeats. As a result, their hearts may not pump enough oxygen-rich blood to the body. Symptoms include dizziness, shortness of breath, and fainting spells.
One of the most effective treatments is an implanted pacemaker, but recent estimates show that as many as 75% of cardiac device patients will need an MRI at some point. Fortunately, a new pacemaker with Revo MR SureScan Technology is safe for use with MRIs.
Lee Friedman, M.D., a radiologist at St. Petersburg General Hospital in Tampa, puts it this way: "MRIs are an important tool used to help detect and diagnose serious illnesses such as stroke, cancer, and neurologic disorders. As a radiologist, I recognize the value of patients being able to have an MRI. Unfortunately, I've had to turn away pacemaker patients in the past who might have benefited greatly from MRI imaging. When I needed a pacemaker myself, I talked with my cardiologist about my options. A pacemaker that allows me access to an MRI was the obvious choice for me."
Debbie Allen hopes that everyone who needs a pacemaker will follow Dr. Freidman's example. "I believe in the power of a well-informed patient, especially when it leads to having a conversation with his or her physician about the right treatment option," she says. "I am a strong advocate of patients being an integral part of making the best healthcare decisions for themselves so they can have the best healthcare possible."
If you or someone you love needs a pacemaker, why not follow Debbie's advice and research all of your treatment choices? A great place to start is the Join the Pacemakers site where you can find medical information, patients' true stories, and more about Debbie and her goal of getting the word out regarding the MRI-safe pacemaker that will become increasingly important as the vast numbers of Boomers in this country continue to age.
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