Smartphones can cause pacemakers to stop working

iStock Heartbeat for WEB Smartphones can cause pacemakers to stop workingPeople with pacemakers are advised to keep a safe distance from smartphones and mobile phones to avoid unwanted painful shocks or pauses in function, medical device manufacturers and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warn.

Pacemakers and other implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs) are small devices that are placed in the chest or abdomen to help control abnormal heart rhythms by using electrical pulses to prompt the heart to beat at a normal rate.

Studies from a decade ago have found that pacemakers can sometimes mistakenly detect electromagnetic interference, or EMIs, from smartphones and mobile devices as a cardiac signal that can make the pacemaker stop working. This can cause a pause in the heart’s rhythm that can lead to a drop in blood pressure, causing patients to lose consciousness. The FDA and device manufacturers have recommended that patients with pacemakers keep about 6-8 inches away from mobile devices.

Dr. Carsten Lennerz, cardiology resident in the Clinic for Heart and Circulatory Diseases, German Heart Center, Munich, Germany, set out to see if the recommendations were still relevant with the newer generation smartphones.

For the study, 308 patients agreed to be exposed to the electromagnet field of one of three common smart phones, including the Samsung Galaxy 3, Nokia Lumia, and HTC One XL by having the device placed on the skin directly above the cardiac device. Researchers then hooked up the smartphones to a radio communication test, which works like a mobile network station. The smartphones were then put through standardized protocol of calling, which included connecting, talking and disconnecting.

Dr. Lennerz found that the risk of malfunctioning with pacemakers when in close proximity to smartphones remained, and that the most vulnerable phases of a smartphone call are ringing and connecting to the network. Thus, the warning from the FDA and pacemaker manufacturers for patients with the medical devices to keep a safe distance from smartphones and mobile phones is still relevant.

Source: 14U News