EMF Health-effects Research

Electromagnetic interference of external pacemakers by walkie-talkies and digital cellular phones: experimental study.

Trigano AJ, Azoulay A, Rochdi M, Campillo A

Pacing Clin Electrophysiol 22(4 Pt 1):588-593, 1999

A number of experimental and clinical studies have documented the risk potential of interference with implanted pacemakers by various types of cellular phones. Radiofrequency susceptibility of external medical equipment has also been reported in experimental studies.

The purpose of this experimental study was to evaluate electromagnetic interference of external pacemakers by walkie-talkies and digital cellular telephones. External bipolar pacing was monitored using a digital oscilloscope to record pacemaker pulses and electromagnetic interference separately. Tests with the walkie-talkie, Private Mobile Radio (PMR) (160 MHz, 2.5 W) were conducted during the calling phase. Tests with the cellular phones, global system for mobile communications (GSM) (900 MHz, 2 W) and Digital Cellular System (DCS) (1,800 MHz, 1 W) were conducted in the test mode. Nine widely used external pacemakers from four manufacturers were tested.

Various disturbances including pacing inhibition and asynchronous pacing were observed in eight pacemakers by the PMR, in four by the GSM phone, and in two by the DCS phone. The maximum distance that interference persisted ranged from 10-200 cm.

This experimental study shows a potential risk of interference of external pacemakers by walkie-talkies and cellular digital phones. Appropriate warnings should be issued against the potentially serious risks of using communication devices in the vicinity of acutely ill patients treated with temporary transvenous cardiac pacemakers.

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