EMF Health-effects Research

Implantable cardioverter defibrillators and cellular telephones: is there any interference?

Occhetta E, Plebani L, Bortnik M, Sacchetti G, Trevi G

Pacing Clin Electrophysiol 22(7):983-989, 1999

The aim of our study was to consider cellular telephone interference using different cellular telephones and implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) models. Thirty (26 men, 4 women) patients with ICDs were considered during follow-up. The ICD models were: Telectronics (7), CPI (7), Medtronic (7), Ventritex (5), and Ela Medical (4). All patients were monitored with surface ECG; permanent telemetric endo-ECG monitoring was activated. Then, the effect of two different European telephone systems were tested: TACS system (Sony CM-R111, 2W power) and GSM system (Motorola MG1-4A11, 2 W power).

For both systems, the effect during call, reception, active conversation (dialogue), and passive conversation (listening) were observed. Cellular telephones were located first in contact with the programming head, then near the leads system, and lastly, in the hands of the patient. At the end of the evaluations, memories were interrogated again to check for false arrhythmia detections. In five of these patients during arrhythmia induction at device implant (first implant or ICD replacement), we also evaluated possible interference between cellular telephones in the reception phase and the ventricular fibrillation detection phase of the ICD.

All evaluated models showed significant noise in the telemetric transmission when the cellular telephone (both TACS and GSM) was located near the ICD and the programming head; noise was particularly significant during call and reception, in most cases leading to loss of telemetry. No false arrhythmia detections have been observed during tests with cellular telephones located on the ICDs. During tests performed with cellular telephones located near the leads or in the hands of patients, no telemetric noises orfalse arrhythmia detections were observed.

During induced ventricularfibrillation and cellular telephones in reception mode near the device, the arrhythmia recognition was always correct and not delayed.

In conclusion, present ICD models seem to be well protected from electromagnetic interference caused by European cellular telephones (TACS and GSM), without under-/oversensing of ventricular arrhythmias. However, cellular telephones disturb telemetry when located near the programming head. ICD patients should not be advised against the use of cellular telephones, but it has to be avoided during ICD interrogation and programming.

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