February 19, 2007 – The proliferation of electronic tools and devices has led to concerns about electromagnetic interference (EMI) with internal heart devices such as pacemakers, heart failure devices, and implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs), according to a recent article in St. Paul, Minnesota’s Pioneer Press. EMI may be caused by electromagnetic fields that surround technological devices that use electricity and magnets. Usually the fields are weak and won’t affect heart devices. In rare cases, however, they can prevent implantable heart devices from working properly and very rarely, may trigger inappropriate shocks from ICDs.
Medical experts say patients should not be overly alarmed about EMI, however, as long as they follow manufacturer guidelines. Heart device companies, which continuously monitor new technology, offer this guidance for patients with internal heart devices:
Do not be concerned about electromagnetic interference (EMI) from microwave ovens, personal computers, pagers, personal digital assistants (PDAs), televisions, CD/DVD players, copiers, fax machines, hair dryers, blenders, toasters, electric blankets and many other personal and household items;
Walk at a normal pace through anti-theft systems such as those used in stores, libraries and banks, and do not linger;
Hold cell phones on the side of the body opposite the implanted medical device, maintaining a distance of at least six inches;
If you are going through airport screening and have a pacemaker, request to be searched with a hand-held electonic screening device. If you have an ICD, request a hand search;
Keep a distance of at least 12 inches between the implant site and lawn mowers, snow blowers, leaf blowers, chain saws, and battery operated cordless power tools;
Keep magnetic jewelry at least six inches from the implant site;
Avoid magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), body-fat measuring scales, and use of jackhammers;
If you hear a beeping sound coming from your device, move away from the EMI source and call your doctor to report the event.
For more information on EMI sources, download this PDF file.