Designing passive MRI-safe implantable conducting leads with electrodes

Paul A. Bottomley, Ananda Kumar, William A. Edelstein, Justin M. Allen, Parag V. Karmarkar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Purpose: The presence of implanted electronic devices with conducting leads and electrodes are contraindicated for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), denying many patients its potential benefits. The prime concern is MRI's radio frequency (RF) fields, which can cause elevated local specific absorption rates (SARs) and potential heat injury. The purpose of this article is to develop and compare a range of passive implantable "MRI-safe" lead designs. Methods: Conducting leads incorporating different lengths (3-75 cm), insulation thicknesses (0-105 μm), resistances (100-3000 Ω), coiled conductors (inner diameter ≤1.2 mm), high-impedance (135-2700 Ω) RF traps, and single-coiled and triple-coiled coaxial-wound "billabong" leads with reversed coil sections that oppose and reduce the induced current, are investigated both experimentally using local temperature measurements, and by numerical full-wave electromagnetic field analysis of the local SAR, in three different-sized bioanalogous model saline-gel phantoms at 1.5 T MRI and 4 W/kg exposure. Results: In all designs, the maximum computed 1 g average SAR and experimental temperature rise occur at the bare electrodes. Electrode heating increases with lead insulation thickness and peaks for uncoiled leads 25-50 cm long. A reasonable match between computed SAR and the point SAR estimated from thermal sensors obtained by approximating the computation volume to that of the thermal probes. Factors that maximize the impedance of leads with resistive, coiled, RF trap and billabong elements can effectively limit heating below 1-2 °C, but folded lead configurations can be a concern. The RF trap and billabong designs can both support multiple conductors and electrodes, with billabong prototype leads also heating <1 °C when tested for 3 T MRI. Conclusions: Lead insulation and length strongly affect implanted lead safety to RF exposure during MRI. Lead designs employing impedance and reversed winding sections offer hope for the development of passive, MRI-safe, implantable conducting leads for future human use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3828-3843
Number of pages16
JournalMedical physics
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2010


  • MRI safety
  • MRI-safe leads
  • RF heating
  • implanted leads

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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