Electric & Hybrid Cars: A Safe Choice for ICD & Pacemaker Patients

Car Shopping

Recently, I began shopping for a new car.  The process is overwhelming! There are so many factors to consider when looking for a new vehicle: gas mileage, sedans vs. hatchbacks, SUVs…the list goes on and on.  Electrics and hybrids are all the rage here in Southern California, but I wasn’t sure if they would be safe for me to drive because I have an implantable defibrillator which also functions as a pacemaker.

German Study: Safety of Popular European Electric Cars

Lucky for me, I didn’t have to wait too long for an answer to my question.  According to a recent German study published in the Annals of Internal Medicinepeople with implanted cardiac devices can safely drive the most common electric cars on the market today.  This study measured the magnetic field strength in four electric cars with the largest market share in Europe: the BMW i3, Nissan Leaf, Tesla Model 85S, and the Volkswagen e-up!  Though the study found that recent models of all of these cars were safe, the authors of this study did caution that future models could potentially cause interference with implantable cardiac devices, depending on  their design.

For more on the recent German study, see these articles at Reuters, Medical Xpress.com and TechTimes.

2017 AHA Preliminary Data – Tesla

The findings from the German study added to preliminary data presented at a 2017 meeting of the American Heart Association.

Tesla Charging

Participants’ devices were monitored for electromagnetic interference while they sat in or stood near a Tesla S P90D.  Testing was done with the study participants situated in a variety of positions—sitting in the driver’s seat, passenger seat, backseat and standing next to the charging port.

The study found that sitting in, or standing close to the charging port of a Tesla while the car was charging at a 220 volt charging station did not trigger an ICD shock or cause interference with the assorted implantable defibrillators. 

2013 Mayo Clinic Study – Toyota Prius

Lastly, Mayo Clinic cardiologists presented similar findings at the American College of Cardiology meeting in 2013.

56050078 - gray toyota prius hybrid - sideviewThat early study found no issues when patients implanted with ICDs and/or pacemakers drove a 2012 Toyota Prius hybrid at 30 mph, 60 mph and at variable speeds of acceleration and deceleration, as well as sitting in the driver’s seat, the front passenger seat, the left and right rear seats and in front of and behind the car from the outside.  Although the researchers found that the implantable devices were exposed to electromagnetic fields inside the car, the amount of interference wasn’t significant enough to cause problems with the devices.

For more on the 2013 Mayo study, see this article in Popular Science.

 

Now that I know that driving these cars is safe for me, I will be out on a test drive trying to narrow down my options!

Limited Recall of Medtronic ICDs and CRT Devices

Medtronic has recalled a small number of ICDs and CRT-D devices.  A total of 48 devices implanted in patients may contain a manufacturing defect which would prevent the device from delivering an appropriate shock if needed.

This is a Class I recall, which is the most serious as determined by the FDA.

Physicians of record of those affected by the recall should have already been notified by Medtronic.  

You can find a list of affected devices and serial numbers here.

You can also contact Medtronic Patient Services at 800-551-5544 (Monday-Friday, 8am-5pm Central Time).

ESC Risk Assessment Tool Comes Up Short in Study

A recent study published in the American Journal of Cardiology found that the standards propounded by the American College of Cardiology Foundation with the American Heart Association (ACC/AHA) were superior in predicting which patients would benefit from an implantable cardiac defibrillator (ICD) compared to the calculator set forth by the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).  According to the study, the use of the ESC tool will result in more high-risk patients going unprotected against sudden death.

Specifically, the study found that out of a group of 288 HCM patients, 14 who experienced aborted sudden cardiac arrest (or 43%) would not have qualified for an ICD under the ESC risk model compared to 7% of patients under the ACC/AHA guidelines.

The ACC/AHA guidelines are:

ICD Guidelines rev.

A companion editorial by Dr. Andreas S. Barth pointed out the shortcomings of both models, and reaffirmed the necessity for shared decision making between physicians and patients.  Dr. Barth also expressed hope that a more accurate predictive model will evolve, though he acknowledged the impossibility of designing a model which could predict future events with certainty.

 

Chapter 4: MRI Safety for ICD & Pacemaker Patients

Yet another study has confirmed the safety of MRIs in patients with non-MRI conditional ICDs and pacemakers.

The latest study, from the University of Pennsylvania and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found no adverse effects from 1.5 Tesla MRI scans performed on 1509 patients who underwent a total of 2103 scans.  58% had pacemakers and 42% had ICDs.

This study confirms previous findings relating to the safety of MRIs in ICD and pacemaker patients reported by HCMBeat here and here.

You can also read my personal experience trying to get a brain MRI in Los Angeles last year here.

Chapter 3: MRI Safety for ICD & Pacemaker Patients

Long awaited results of the MagnaSafe study regarding the safety of MRIs in patients with implantable devices were published in February.   The MagnaSafe study established a multi-center prospective registry for patients undergoing MRI scans despite their having an implanted device not deemed safe for MRI scanning by the FDA.

Continue reading “Chapter 3: MRI Safety for ICD & Pacemaker Patients”

A Risk Calculator for Sudden Death -Results of HCM-EVIDENCE Study

The HCM Risk–SCD Score

In 2014, the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) introduced a numerical predictor (the “HCM Risk–SCD score”) to assist physicians in identifying those patients at highest risk for sudden cardiac death who would benefit from the implantation of a prophylactic implantable cardioverter-defibrillator.

Using an algorithm generated by the answers to a series of questions, the tool estimates the 5-year risk of sudden cardiac arrest for any particular patient.  You can find the tool online here.

Continue reading “A Risk Calculator for Sudden Death -Results of HCM-EVIDENCE Study”

Safety of MRIs With Abandoned Leads

Two posters presented at this weekend’s Heart Rhythm Society meeting in Chicago show that patients who have abandoned pacemaker or ICD leads may safely undergo MRI exams.

These posters follow the earlier MagnaSafe study which demonstrated the safety of MRI for patients with pacemakers and ICDs, but which excluded patients with abandoned leads from the findings.

The first, by researchers at Mayo Clinic, included 57 patients with 63 abandoned leads who underwent 70 MRI exams in a 1.5 Tesla machine.  The authors saw no clinical problems and no device malfunction following the scans.

The researchers also monitored blood troponin levels in 35 of the patients following the scans and did not see any elevation which could indicate distress to the heart from the scan.

The second poster, from the University of Pennsylvania, involved 24 patients with abandoned leads who underwent 34 MRI exams.  The results of this study also failed to demonstrate any clinical problems or patient discomfort resulting from the MRI scans.

With any luck, everyone will soon be able to obtain an MRI and will not be denied due to any kind of implantable cardiac device.

For an account of my personal experiences seeking MRI with an ICD, read this.

Fewer Double Gene Defects Doing Less Harm?

A study published this week by HCM researchers in Canada found that double mutations in patients with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy are much less common than previously thought.  In particular, researchers found that except for those with double mutations in the gene MYBPC3, there is not much data to support the finding that there is a worse clinical course for those patients who have double HCM mutations.

Hence,  in the absence of extraordinary circumstances, such as two MYBPC3 mutations, the researchers caution that double mutations should not be the sole justification for the insertion of an implantable defibrillator. 

The study looked at patients >18 years of age who underwent genetic testing at the Toronto General Hospital between January 2005 and June 2016.  Out of a sample of 1411 patients, 9% of those who were gene-positive patients had 2 genes, but only in 1 case (0.4%) were both genes classified as those known to cause HCM.

In addition to looking at their own patients, the researchers also re-examined data from previously published studies. Similarly, they found when they re-analyzed the data that only 0.4% of the 8% of patients previously found to have double mutations in fact carried multiple pathogenic mutations.

Study Shows MRIs Safe for Pacemaker & ICD Patients

The long awaited results from the Magna-Safe study were published today in the New England Journal of Medicineand it was good news for pacer and implantable cardioverter–defibrillator (ICD) patients! When proper precautions have been taken, MRIs were found to be safe in patients implanted with certain older pacemakers or ICDs.

In order to study the safety of scanning these patients, doctors set up a prospective registry for patients undergoing MRI in scanners with a magnetic field strength of 1.5 tesla who were scanned despite having a non-MR conditional device (i.e. a device which had not been deemed safe for MRI scanning by the FDA).

MRIs were performed on 1000 patients with pacemakers and 500 patients with ICDs and the results of the study showed that as long as appropriate patient selection and safety protocols were followed, patients had no problems with the MRI scans.

This is indeed good news for those of us with older devices who may be in need of MRI scans. To read about my own experiences and investigation of this issue, read my previous blog entry YES WE SCAN! ICDs and MRIs.

Apical Aneurysm is Risk Factor for HCM Patients

A recent retrospective study of patients at Minneapolis Heart Institute and Tufts Medical Center published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that HCM patients who also had left ventricular apical aneurysms were at increased risk of sudden cardiac death and stroke.  However, with increased surveillance and appropriate treatment, including the implantation of a implantable defibrillator, radiofrequency ablation and/or anti-coagulation, as appropriate, the authors suggest that the increased risk can be neutralized.

A summary of this article can be found here.