EMF Health-effects Research

The effect of electromagnetic interference from mobile communication on the performance of intensive care ventilators.

Jones RP, Conway DH.

Eur J Anaesthesiol. 22(8):578-583, 2005

Electromagnetic interference produced by wireless communication can affect medical devices and hospital policies exist to address this risk. During the transfer of ventilated patients, these policies may be compromised by essential communication between base and receiving hospitals. Local wireless networks (e.g. Bluetooth) may reduce the 'spaghetti syndrome' of wires and cables seen on intensive care units, but also generate electromagnetic interference.

The aim of this study was to investigate these effects on displayed and actual ventilator performance.

METHODS: Five ventilators were tested: Drager Oxylog 2000, BREAS LTV-1000, Respironics BiPAP VISION, Puritan Bennett 7200 and 840. Electromagnetic interference was generated by three devices: Simoco 8020 radio handset, Nokia 7210 and Nokia 6230 mobile phone, Nokia 6230 communicating via Bluetooth with a Palm Tungsten T Personal Digital Assistant. We followed the American National Standard Recommended Practice for On-Site, Ad Hoc Testing (ANSI C63) for electromagnetic interference. We used a ventilator tester, to simulate healthy adult lungs and measure ventilator performance. The communication device under test was moved in towards each ventilator from a distance of 1 m in six axes. Alarms or error codes on the ventilator were recorded, as was ventilator performance.

RESULTS: All ventilators tested, except for the Respironics VISION, showed a display error when subjected to electromagnetic interference from the Nokia phones and Simoco radio. Ventilator performance was only affected by the radio which caused the Puritan Bennett 840 to stop functioning completely. The transfer ventilators' performance were not affected by radio or mobile phone, although the mobile phone did trigger a low-power alarm. Effects on intensive care ventilators included display reset, with the ventilator restoring normal display function within 2 s, and low-power/low-pressure alarms. Bluetooth transmission had no effect on the function of all the ventilators tested.

CONCLUSION: In a clinical setting, high-power-output devices such as a two-way radio may cause significant interference in ventilator function. Medium-power-output devices such as mobile phones may cause minor alarm triggers. Low-power-output devices such as Bluetooth appear to cause no interference with ventilator function.

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