Smartphones can deliver shocks to patients who wear pacemaker devices.
All those people who wear cardiac devices should keep a safe distance from smartphones in order to avoid unwanted painful shocks or pauses in function. This has been stated by EHRA EUROPACE—CARDIOSTIM 2015 by Dr. Carsten Lennerz.
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Dr. Lennerz is the first author and cardiology resident in the Clinic for Heart and Circulatory Diseases, German Heart Center, Munich, Germany. The doctor stated that the pacemakers can sometimes mistakenly detect electromagnetic interference (EMI) from the smartphones as a cardiac signal which causes them to briefly stop working. This then leads to a pause in the cardiac rhythm of the pacing dependent patient and could even result in syncope.
The device manufacturers along with regulatory institutions which include the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have recommended such people a safety distance of 15 to 20 cm between pacemakers or ICDs and mobile phones. This advice has been based on the studies that have been performed primarily in pacemakers 10 years ago.
Now much has changed since the last 10 years and so the current study has basically evaluated whether the recommended safety distance is still relevant with the new smartphones and cardiac devices. Well a total of 308 patients were exposed to the electromagnetic field of three common smartphones which included the Samsung Galaxy 3, Nokia Lumia and HTC One XL, which were placed on the skin directly above the cardiac device.
After this the smartphones were connected to a radio communication tester which works like a mobile network station. The investigators then put these smartphones through a standardized protocol of the calling process which included connecting, talking and disconnecting.
Dr. Lennerz stated that from the earlier studies they know that the most vulnerable phases of a call are ringing and connecting to the network and so it was quite important to analyze these separately.
He also explained that one out of 308 patients was affected by EMI caused by smartphones. This happened because this patients MRI compatible ICD had wrongly detected electromagnetic waves from the Nokia and HTC smartphones that were operating on GSM or UMTS.
Then in a second study on EMI the researchers have advised limiting exposure to high voltage power lines. This study had been conducted in response to public concerns about bicycle routes and walking paths under high voltage power lines and whether these are safe for the patients.
Dr. Katia Dyrda who is a cardiologist at Montreal Heart Institute stated that High electricity fields sometimes interfere with the normal functioning of cardiac devices and can be dangerous for the patients as it delivers inappropriate shocks.
This study had exposed 40 cardiac devices from five different manufacturers to electric fields up to 20 kV/m in a high voltage laboratory. The researchers found out that when pacemakers were programmed to nominal parameters and in bipolar mode they were immune to EMI up to 8.6 kV/m.