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MRI Performed on Patient with Pacemaker

$250,000 – MRI Performed on Patient with Pacemaker


88-year-old dies after he was placed in an MRI machine with a pacemaker. An attendant noted there was no blood flowing through his carotid arteries.

Decedent, an 88-year-old male, had a pacemaker implanted to assist him in managing his atrial fibrillation. The pacemaker was regularly checked by Dr. Roe and was considered to be working properly. On May 26th, decedent experienced decreased movement of his left arm and left leg while at his home. Paramedics were called, and he was transported to Defendant Hospital to evaluate his condition for the possibility of a stroke. On examination, it was noted that his left upper extremity strength was 4+/5. His condition appeared to be resolving. A CT scan of the head showed no evidence of acute infarct, and no evidence of acute bleed. He was prescribed aspirin and was provided some physical and occupational therapy while he was in the hospital.

A carotid artery ultrasound was performed which showed stenosis in the right internal carotid artery bulb. The possibility of corrective surgery was discussed, and it was decided that this would be worked up and performed in the near future. Decedent made plans to be discharged from the hospital. Because he had been experiencing mobility problems with his left leg, which was now suspicious of orthopedic origin, x-rays of the leg were discussed with decedent and his granddaughter. It was decided that the leg would be x-rayed on decedent’s way out to be discharged.

On May 29th, the granddaughter began the trip into town to pick up her grandfather to take him home, believing that he was in radiology having his leg x-rayed. Decedent did not have the leg x-rayed. Instead, he was placed in an MRI machine for a Magnetic Resonance Angiogram (MRA) to image his carotids. The purpose of the MRA was to further define the extent of the carotid occlusion earlier noted in the ultrasound. The medical records state that the MR angiography was performed in lieu of conventional catheter angiography because of the relative risks of invasive angiography. During the scan the attendant noted that on the screen it appeared that decedent’s carotids were empty. The scan was ceased and decedent was pulled from the machine in full cardiac arrest. It was at that time, and for the first time, that anyone in the MRI department realized that decedent had a pacemaker. Decedent was revived and admitted to the intensive care department. He never regained consciousness, demonstrated a severely abnormal EEG, slipped into renal failure and died on July 21st.


Death of an 88-year-old male, survived by spouse. $600 for funeral expenses and $25,540 in loss earnings based on a life expectancy of five years.

Plaintiff’s Contentions

Plaintiff claimed that defendants knew or should have known that decedent had a pacemaker. It was a violation of the standard of care to attempt to perform any MRI in light of his condition.

Special Notes

The case settled with an agreement by Defendants to indemnify and hold harmless Plaintiff in regard to any monies potentially owed to MediCal or Medicare.




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