EMF Health-effects Research

Characterization of electromagnetic interference of medical devices in the hospital due to cell phones

Morrissey JJ, Swicord M, Balzano Q

Health Phys 82(1):45-51, 2002

Concern over electromagnetic interference with medical devices due to cell phone emissions has stemmed from anecdotal reports and unpublished observations of hospital staff. In an effort to characterize electromagnetic interference concerns, representative medical devices from four large teaching hospitals were exposed to standard North American and European communication signal emissions.

Of 33 medical devices tested, only 4 showed disruption of critical function due to cell phone emissions at a distance of 25 cm or greater. Although other cases of electromagnetic interference were observed, these were not critically disruptive and mainly occurred when the transmitters were at full power and placed 5 cm or closer to the medical device.

Overall, no cell phone signal was exempt from producing electromagnetic interference effects. While sensitive medical devices were often affected by more than one signal type, the effects were not entirely predictable based upon the results of other signals or related medical device units or models. Because a comprehensive analysis of all medical devices in all possible electromagnetic environments was not performed, the data presented here are only intended to provide a general idea of the magnitude of electromagnetic interference effects that might be encountered in a hospital environment, as well as a standard protocol for clinical engineering groups to perform ad hoc electromagnetic interference surveys and methods to manage and/or eliminate electromagnetic interference with appropriate system engineering design including supplementary communication infrastructure, medical device shielding and positioning, and appropriate cell phone user guidelines.

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