Electromagnetic interference of active heart rhythm implants in everyday life and at work

A statement by the German Society for Cardiology (DGK) and the German Society for Work and Environmental Medicine (DGAUM) summarizes the current study situation on this topic and makes recommendations for the handling of different electronic devices.

The modern pacemakers and defibrillators are generally not affected by electromagnetic fields in everyday life, as long as they are programmed according to manufacturer recommendations. Nevertheless, patients who have had these devices implanted should exercise a certain amount of caution when using some everyday electrical devices.

Mobile phones
Modern mobile phones and smartphones with Internet function present only a very low risk of interference. A safety distance of 15 cm from the implant, as recommended ten years ago, is no longer necessary due to the telephony and Internet function. Pacemaker and ICD carriers should be kept at least 10 cm away from inductive charging stations.

Consumer electronics
MP3 players can be used without hesitation. Interferences could not be proven in studies. However, since they can interfere with the telemetry between the programming device and the implant during the follow-up examination, they should not be used during this period.

Headphones, Loudspeakers
Permanent magnets processed in headphones or loudspeakers can cause interference with pacemakers and defibrillators. Therefore, they should never be placed directly on the site where the device is implanted.

Anti-theft devices in shops
The electronic article surveillance systems in the entrance and exit areas of department stores should be passed quickly by device carriers. They should not stay unnecessarily long in their magnetic field.
The greatest risk of interference is caused by acustomagnetic anti-theft devices. Pacemaker wearers should keep a distance of 60 cm and defibrillator wearers 40 cm from RFID scanners.

Metal detectors
Both archway metal detectors and manually operated detectors, such as those used at airports, do not pose a risk to implant carriers according to the data available.

Hybrid and electric vehicles, planes and trains showed no interactions with the devices.
“Travel restrictions for patients with active heart rhythm implants may be indicated on the basis of the underlying heart disease, but not because of the mere presence of a cardiac implant”.

Power lines
Correctly installed power lines in the house do not pose a potential risk of electromagnetic interference for pacemaker and ICD wearers. To avoid interference, pacemaker and ICD wearers should pay particular attention to the correct grounding of electrical devices and should not keep defective household appliances in operation. It is also safe to cross underneath high-voltage lines or over underground cables.

Induction cookers
Especially pacemaker-dependent patients and ICD wearers should maintain a safety distance of at least 25 cm between the implant and induction focus.

Body Fat Scales
In principle, the risk of interference appears low and justifies a restriction with regard to body fat scales only to a limited extent. The small number of cases of the patients examined so far does not yet allow a clear risk assessment.

Author(s) Source
Napp A, Kolb C, Lennerz C. et al. DKG, Leitlinien der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Kardiologie – Herz- und Kreislaufforschung e.V., Kardiologe (2019) 13: 216.
https://doi.org/10.1007/s12181-019-0335-0 (german)
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