Cell Phones May Interfere With ICD, Pacemakers, Study Warns

New research examines the risks that individuals with with implanted cardiac devices may face from cellphone interference. 

Researchers tested recommendations offered by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other medical institutions concerning the proximity of cellphones with pacemakers and implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICD).

The findings were presented to a joint congress of the European Heart Rhythm Association EHRA, European Society of Cardiology (ESC) and Cardiostim in Milan on June 22, indicating that cellphones may interfere with the cardiac devices, however not as often as previously believed. The researchers indicate that recommendations regarding their use should still be followed.

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Cell phones emit electromagnetic waves that can potentially affect the performance of pacemakers and ICDs, creating a serious health risk to users.

Researchers studied more than 3,400 electromagnetic interference tests on 308 people. Of those 147 had heart implants, 96 with ICDs,and 65 with cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) devices. These were tested using three types of smartphones, the Nokia Lumia, Samsung Galaxy 3 and the HTC One XL.

Researchers found one out of the 308 participants were affected by electromagnetic interference from smartphones.

FDA recommendations for heart implants are to keep a safe distance of 15 to 20 cm between pacemakers or ICDs and cellphones or to use the cell phone on the ear opposite of the side where the implant is located. Study authors say the current recommendations set by the FDA to keep a safe distance should be upheld.

Pacemakers can often detect electromagnetic interference from smartphones and interpret that as a cardiac signal, causing the pacemaker to stop working, even if only for a brief moment, putting the patient in danger. Patients experience a disrupted heart rhythm and may suffer syncope.

Cellphones can also mimic the signal of the ICD and is often similar to a ventricular tachyarrhythmia causing the ICD to deliver a shock to the patients, causing pain and other life threatening complications.

The negative influence of electromagnetic waves on health has been found in other studies, yet researchers wanted data to determine if the recommendations were still relevant.

Researchers said while interference between smartphones and cardiac devices is uncommon, it still can occur and is quite dangerous when it does occur.

Another recent study published in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine highlighted potential concerns associated with the implanted devices, suggesting that many deaths caused by pacemakers and ICDs may be going unnoticed.

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