Fringe Box



New Service Allows Speedier MRI Scans for Heart Patients with Pacemakers

Published on: 13 Feb, 2023
Updated on: 19 Feb, 2023

Consultant Cardiologists Dr Ed Leatham (L) & Dr Michael Hickman with Guildford MP, Angela Richardson. In the background their new MRI scanner suitable for patients with implanted pacemakers and defibrillators

People with implanted pacemakers and defibrillators will now be able to access a new high quality MRI scanning service launched today by VCL (Virtual Cath Lab), 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 the new service is 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 utilising highly specialised new MRI technology.

Dr Leatham explained: “Patients with pacemakers can only have an MRI scan if there’s a highly experienced multi-disciplinary team available both to programme their pacemaker (before and after) and operate the scanner to ensure the patient’s safety.

Cardiac MRI is the gold-standard test for many cardiac conditions

“For instance, if a person has 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 either must undergo a 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.”

Guildford’s MP, Angela Richardson cuts the ribbon to launch the new service.

This is not the first breakthrough from VCL, through partnership, 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 (

This 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.”

The launch was attended by Guildford’s 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.”

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