updated 2/8/2011 3:31:47 PM ET 2011-02-08T20:31:47

Medtronic Inc., the world's largest medical device company, said Tuesday it has received U.S. approval for the first pacemaker designed to be safely used with MRI scanners.

Patients with the heart-pacing implants are strongly discouraged from having MRI scans because the radio waves could interfere with the functioning of their device. MRI scans are used to diagnose cancers, heart conditions and brain problems.

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Medtronic says about 200,000 pacemaker patients in the U.S. must opt out of the scans each year.

The company's REVO Surescan is the first pacemaker that is FDA-approved for use while undergoing the high-powered scans.

Medtronic said it would begin shipping the devices immediately.

Pacemakers use low-voltage electrical pulses to treat dangerously slow heart rhythms.

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