EMF Health-effects Research

Electromagnetic interference between automatic defibrillators and digital and analog cellular telephones

Jimenez A, Hernandez Madrid A, Pascual J, Gonzalez Rebollo JM, Fernandez E, Sanchez A, Ortega J, Lozano F, Munoz R, Moro C

Rev Esp Cardiol 51(5):375-382, 1998

[Article in Spanish]

BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Functional pacemaker interference by mobile telephones has been described with analogical systems and with possible greater influence, digital systems, including inhibition and inadequate pacing. The influence of both system has not been extensively studied in patients with implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICD).

PATIENTS AND METHODS: We studied the influence of mobile phones, both digital and analogic network, on the performance of several models of defibrillators, in a standardised test set up designed to provide high sensitivity. The purpose of our study was to establish whether there are any influences on ICD functions, both in in vivo and in in vitro models. Several mobile phones, with different transmission powers, were moved towards the defibrillator and the electrode, under continuous documentation of defibrillator sensing and interrogation afterwards. The experimental model was performed with the aid of an arrhythmia simulator (Intersim) and demo-defibrillators. The tests were repeated both in and out of a solution of saline water with an impedance within normal human limits.

RESULTS: Partial loss of telemetry was found in 14 patients, 8 with analogical phones and 6 with digital phones. Fourteen patients showed alterations only on the surface electrocardiogram channel and five on the intracavitary channel. The same results were reproduced in the in vitro model. However, the in vitro test allowed us to simulate multiple ventricular arrhythmias, and demonstrate the normal sensing and functioning of the defibrillator during a "spontaneous" arrhythmia. After testing, we demonstrate that no real oversensing/undersensing was documented in any device. There was no evidence of ICD reprogramming or pacing inhibition. In particular, no inadequate therapies were delivered.

CONCLUSIONS: a) in our series, we have not demonstrated clinically significant electromagnetic interferences with mobile phones of digital or analogical networks: b) the in vitro model allowed us to conclude that even if a spontaneous arrhythmia appears, the function of the defibrillator is not altered; c) the use of mobile phones seems to be safe for defibrillator patients, and d) however, some basic rules, such as to maintain the phone at least 15 cm away from the defibrillator, are advised.

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