UCI Health first in Orange County to implant MRI-compatible cardiac defibrillator

New device enables heart failure patients to undergo full body scan

March 15, 2016
Dr. Teferi Y. Mitiku

UCI Health is the first health system in Orange County to offer heart failure patients the only FDA-approved implantable cardiac resynchronization therapy defibrillator that is safe for use with magnetic resonance imaging systems. MRI scans can be critical for doctors to detect and treat other underlying, life-threatening conditions.

Heart failure refers to the progressive weakening of the heart muscle until it no longer pumps enough blood to meet the body’s needs. Cardiac resynchronization therapy features a battery-powered device placed under the skin that tracks heart rate through thin wires connected to the heart. When an abnormal heart rhythm is detected, the device delivers an electric shock to help restore a normal heartbeat.

“We are committed to providing the most comprehensive cardiovascular services to the community and leading the way in improving care for our heart failure patients,” said UCI Health cardiologist Dr. Teferi Y. Mitiku. “This device helps the heart pump more effectively in a coordinated rhythm and allows the patient to safely undergo MRI scans on any part of the body without restrictions on positioning the patient.”

Mitiku implanted the first device on March 10 in a 70-year-old female patient with dilated cardiomyopathy and heart failure. The therapy is offered as part of the UCI Health Cardiac Arrhythmia Service.

Each month, about 10,000 Americans have a defibrillator implanted to treat heart failure and help prevent the risk of sudden cardiac arrest.  Within four years, as many as 40 percent of these patients will need to undergo an MRI scan to diagnose conditions such as stroke, cancer or Alzheimer’s disease. However, the metal in their implanted devices can pose a danger from the magnets used in imaging, denying thousands of patients access to MRI scans when they need them.

“For patients who do not have an MRI-compatible device, undergoing a scan can cause heart damage, or their defibrillator has to be removed first, which can also be dangerous,” Mitiku explained. “This device solves that dilemma.”

The Amplia MRI™ and Compia MRI™ Quad CRT-D SureScan® systems received FDA approval in February 2016. These resynchronization therapy systems are designed to help improve the flow of blood from the heart and throughout the body for patients with electrical conduction problems of the heart.

The UCI Health Heart Failure Program uses state-of-science equipment and technologies to identify the cause of heart failure, or cardiomyopathy. A multidisciplinary team then works with patients to stabilize their condition and develops a comprehensive treatment plan.  Milestones include: 

  • Becoming the first health system in Orange County to offer heart failure patients the CardioMEMS system remote heart failure monitoring system. The wireless, implantable device enables cardiologists to remotely monitor patients’ pulmonary artery pressure and heart rate measurements, helping to reduce the rate of hospital readmission related to heart failure.
  • Receiving the American Heart Association’s Get With the Guidelines – Heart Failure Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award in each of the past five years. The recognition signifies that UCI Health has achieved the goal of treating heart failure patients according to prevention guidelines recommended by the American Heart Association/American College of Cardiology.
  • Receiving the association’s Target: Heart Failure Honor Roll for the past two years. Target: Heart Failure is an initiative that provides hospitals with educational tools, prevention programs and treatment guidelines designed to reduce the risk of heart failure patients ending up back in the hospital.

UCI Health comprises the clinical, medical education and research enterprises of the University of California, Irvine. Patients can access UCI Health at physician offices throughout Orange County and at its main campus, UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange, Calif., a 411-bed acute care hospital that provides tertiary and quaternary care, ambulatory and specialty medical clinics, behavioral health and rehabilitation. U.S. News & World Report has listed it among America’s Best Hospitals for 15 consecutive years. UC Irvine Medical Center features Orange County’s only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, high-risk perinatal/neonatal program, Level I trauma center and Level II pediatric trauma center, and is the primary teaching hospital for UC Irvine School of Medicine. UCI Health serves a region of more than 3 million people in Orange County, western Riverside County and southeast Los Angeles County. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


About the University of California, Irvine: Currently celebrating its 50th anniversary, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 30,000 students and offers 192 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $4.8 billion annually to the local economy. For more on UCI, visit www.uci.edu.

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