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Smartphones Can Interfere With Cardiac Devices

Risk is low; however, patients are advised to keep phones away from chest pockets

TUESDAY, June 23, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Smartphones should be kept a safe distance from implanted cardiac devices like pacemakers and defibrillators, in the rare chance that signaling interference occurs, according to new research. The findings were scheduled to be presented Monday at the joint meeting of the European Heart Rhythm Association of the European Society of Cardiology and Cardiostim, held from June 21 to 24 in Milan.

Researchers tracked the effects of smartphones on 308 patients with an implanted cardiac device. Participants were exposed to the electromagnetic field of three common smartphones: the Samsung Galaxy 3; Nokia Lumia; and HTC One XL. These phones were placed on the patients’ skin directly above their heart device. After being connected to a radio communication tester that functions like a mobile network station, the researchers analyzed how activities such as connecting calls, ringing, talking, and hanging up all affected the cardiac devices. Electrocardiograms recorded continuously.

After conducting more than 3,400 tests on EMI, the researchers found that only one of the patients was affected by interference caused by smartphones. This person had a magnetic resonance imaging-compatible implanted defibrillator, which misinterpreted electromagnetic waves from the Nokia and HTC smartphones. The new findings suggest that interference between smartphones and cardiac devices is uncommon; however, it “can occur, so the current recommendations on keeping a safe distance should be upheld.” lead author Carsten Lennerz, M.D., a cardiology resident at the German Heart Centre in Munich, said in a news release from the European Society of Cardiology.

“Nearly everyone uses smartphones and there is the possibility of interference with a cardiac device if you come too close,” senior author Christof Kolb, M.D., prior head of electrophysiology at the German Heart Centre, said in the news release. “Patients with a cardiac device can use a smartphone,” Kolb said. “But they should not place it directly over the cardiac device. That means not storing it in a pocket above the cardiac device. They should also hold their smartphone to the ear opposite to the side of the device implant.”

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