Scientists recommend people wearing cardiac devices including peacemakers to refrain from using a smartphone because the latter could trigger painful shocks or even bring the medical device to a halt.
Dr Carsten Lennerz, a cardiology expert at the Clinic for Heart and Circulatory Diseases in Germany, who co-authored a study on the issue, explained that peacemakers and other cardiac devices may take the electromagnetic interference (EMI) from smartphones for a cardiac signal, which may trigger a brief pause.
Furthermore, the pause in the peacemaker triggers a pause in the patient’s cardiac rhythm, which may further result in a syncope, or temporary loss of consciousness due to temporary shortage of blood flow towards the brain.
“For implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) the external signal mimics a life threatening ventricular tachyarrhythmia, leading the ICD to deliver a painful shock,”
added Dr. Lennerz.
Even the cardiac devices’ makers recommend a safe distance of six to eight inches between peacemakers and mobile phones. But since the guidelines were issued more than a decade ago, producers weren’t able to caution against smartphone use.
Dr. Lennerz and his colleagues focused on learning whether recommendations of the peacemakers’ producers could also applied to smartphones.
Scientists surveyed more than 300 patients with three types of implanted cardiac devices. About 140 were peacemaker wearers, 161 had an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD), while 65 underwent Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy (CRT).
Study participants were requested to place three types of smartphones on their bare skin in close vicinity to their implanted medical device.
All mobile phones were wired to a radio communication tester which mimics a mobile phone station. The research team tested the elctromagnetic field’s interference with the cardiac devices on connecting, calling, texting and disconnecting.
Several electrocardiograms (EKG) were performed to monitor the electrical signals traveling through the patients’ hearts. Additionally, more than electromagnetic interference (EMI) were conducted.
Scientists learned that one patient in 308, which accounts for 0.3 percent, was affected by the electromagnetism of the mobile phones. So, the team recommends to keep a safe distance from smartphones if you are a cardiac device wearer, though interference between the two devices is rather “uncommon.”
Scientists were also surprised to learn that the affected cardiac device by the EMI was resistant to MRI interference. So, patients wearing this type of device should also keep a safe distance from their smartphones, study authors caution.
The results of the research were presented this week during the annual conference of the European Society of Cardiology ’s European Heart Rhythm Association (EHRA) and Cardiostim in Milan, Italy.
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