FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Washington, DC — Today, the National Council on Aging (NCOA) released the results of a national survey of older adults, caregivers, and health care providers evaluating knowledge and awareness of medical imaging safety. The survey, which focused largely on electronic implantable device patients and their caregivers, reveals that communication about the safety of medical imaging for patients with these devices is often inadequate.
“The survey clarifies that older adults with electronic implantable devices such as pacemakers need better information on the benefits and risks of medical imaging,” said Stuart Spector, Senior Vice President of the NCOA. “Our aim is to highlight the results of this survey to increase awareness and facilitate a more productive dialogue between patients, caregivers, and health care providers.”
Editors of the New England Journal of Medicine named medical imaging as one of 11 developments that changed the face of clinical medicine during the last millennium. Medical imaging plays a critical role in early disease detection, diagnosis, and treatment. Yet, despite the importance of medical imaging, the NCOA survey found that over 90% of physicians agreed that magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is contraindicated and may be risky for patients with certain electronic implantable devices, such as pacemakers, and very few will order MRIs for these patients.
“Patients and doctors have always valued choice and safety. Patients want their doctors to have the right imaging tools such as MRI available to them for the doctor to make the correct diagnosis,” said Dr. J. Rod Gimbel. “However, patients with pacemakers who might have an MRI should understand the potential risks. For many patients where MRI would be the right choice, that choice is complicated by the presence of their pacemaker.”
After the age of 65, a person’s chance of needing medical imaging doubles, and between 50% and 75% of patients with electronic implantable devices will likely need medical imaging over their device’s lifetime.
Confusion Exists Over Risks
The survey, made possible by a grant from Medtronic, found that nearly a third of patients and more than half of caregivers did not recall being informed that they or the person they care for might not be eligible for some forms of medical imaging at the time the device was implanted. The survey also found that three in 10 electronic implantable device patients have had an MRI despite the risks, and of this group nearly 20% reported experiencing problems with their device afterwards.
Physicians Agree More Education is Needed
In addition, the survey evaluated health care provider perceptions and use of guidelines from the American College of Cardiology (ACC), the American College of Radiology (ACR), and American Heart Association (AHA) for MRI use in patients with electronic implantable devices. The physicians reported using clinical guidelines often, referring to the ACC, ACR, and AHA guidelines in near equal numbers for medical imaging. Nearly all health care providers surveyed (98%) support more education on medical imaging and electronic implantable devices to help ensure awareness of critical guidelines, including that electronic implantable devices should not be regarded as safe for medical imaging simply because they are labeled as modern or recently manufactured.
This survey has prompted NCOA to host a series of community events across the country. At the events, experts will share the results of the survey and provide information about medical imaging safety, particularly for patients with electronic implantable devices. These free events will be held at community centers across the country beginning in Orlando, FL in February–American Heart Health Month. For more information on the Orlando event, please call Ben White at 407-254-9078.
Penn Schoen Berland (PSB) conducted 1,077 online interviews with 652 older adults, 273 caregivers and 152 physicians from November 19-30, 2009. Overall, margin of error for patients and caregivers is +/-3.22% and +/-7.95% for physicians.
The National Council on Aging is a nonprofit service and advocacy organization headquartered in Washington, DC. NCOA is a national voice for older Americans–especially those who are vulnerable and disadvantaged–and the community organizations that serve them. It brings together nonprofit organizations, businesses, and government to develop creative solutions that improve the lives of all older adults. NCOA works with thousands of organizations across the country to help older adults find jobs and benefits, improve their health, live independently, and remain active in their communities. For more information, visitwww.ncoa.org