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New service set to speed up MRI scans for heart patients with pacemaker

Posted on Wednesday February 8, 2023 in News

People with implanted pacemakers and defibrillators will now be able to access a new high quality MRI scanning service launched today by VCL, the specialist imaging company based at The Surrey Research Park.

At present, patients with pacemakers and defibrillators are either prevented from undergoing essential MRI imaging or have unacceptably long waits.  This causes significant problems to patients – and their clinicians – particularly in cardiology, cancer care, neurology and orthopaedics.

The ‘magnetic challenges’ that arise for these patients during scanning can only be addressed by exceptionally highly skilled radiographers and technicians, that VCL is now able to provide.

VCL was founded by two local cardiologists Dr Edward Leatham and Dr Michael Hickman in 2020 with the sole objective of improving access to the latest technological advances specialist imaging.

These specialised new MRI scans, which use the latest Siemens 1.5T MRI Scanner, require the joint expertise of a multidisciplinary team to undertake the vital scans safely and as quickly as possible after the need has been identified.

Dr Leatham explained: “Patients with pacemakers can only have an MRI scan if there’s a experienced multidisciplinary team available both to programme their pacemaker (before and after) and operate the scanner to ensure the patient’s safety.  For instance, in many men found to have a raised PSA test, there is often a need for an MRI to establish whether they have prostate cancer, however it is increasingly impossible to deliver this within the required timeframe. Therefore, some patients with pacemakers must either undergo a prostate biopsy instead of an MRI scan or wait until a specialist team is available – if at all.  Waiting lists for MRIs are already long, but particularly so for pacemaker patients; our new service potentially puts an end to all this.”

This is not the first breakthrough from VCL; through its partnerships with global leaders in medical imaging technology, it has developed a number of UK-first patient pathways for one-stop chest pain assessment including CT coronary angiography that uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to assist with detection of critical coronary artery disease up to ten years before symptoms occur ( It has enabled many patients with Critical Coronary disease to avoid often lengthy – and risky – waits for diagnosis and treatment.

Dr Hickman said: “Following the Covid pandemic, the backlog in NHS services nationally has been particularly harmful to cardiovascular health, due to diminished access and delayed diagnoses. At VCL, we provide direct access to a streamlined, high-quality, patient-centred service that overcomes these delays in accessing healthcare.”

Dr Leatham added: “While we have contracts with all major private medical insurance companies, we are hoping that the NHS will consider out-sourcing some of its MRI/CT demand; our CT scanner for instance may very well sit idle for three days a week and has the capacity to help tackle patients who are waiting,  so we believe we hold the answer to speeding up diagnosis and treatment in this area; we are in active negotiations with government and NHS officials to help tackle NHS waiting lists.”

The launch was attended by Guildford MP, Angela Richardson, who commented “This new scanner is a welcome addition to imaging services in this area and I will do all I can to encourage outsourcing to specialist scan providers that have both the expertise and capacity to reduce waiting lists locally.”

Dr Ed Leatham & Dr Michael Hickman with Angela Richardson MP and their new MRI Scanning Service for patients with implanted pacemakers and defibrillators.

Find out more about VCL MRI services

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