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AHA: For Most Part, Wi-Fi Does Not Affect Defibrillators

However, hospitals should not place high-access output points near areas of patient care

MONDAY, Nov. 13 (HealthDay News) -- For the most part, wireless communication networks such as Wi-Fi and Ethernet do not interfere with implantable cardioverter defibrillators and pacemakers, according to study findings presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions in Chicago. However, they can interfere with emergency telemetry or pacemaker programmers, so hospitals should locate such networks away from areas of patient care.

Fritz Mellert, M.D., of the University of Bonn in Germany, and colleagues exposed 25 pacemakers and 22 defibrillators to the maximum power of wireless local area networks (WLAN) allowed in Europe and the higher transmitting power allowed in the United States.

Overall, there was interference with 10.6 percent of devices, although there were no clinically significant cases of interference of the most severe type including inhibition, reprogramming or safety pacing. There were five pacemaker models that experienced less severe interference during telemetry, including noise artifacts and erroneous event markers at up to 60 centimeters. In one case, the radio-based technology interfered with the programming of emergency parameters in a pacemaker.

"Our study suggests that WLAN equipment in Europe and the United States does not represent a significant risk to pacemaker and implantable cardioverter defibrillator recipients outside hospitals," the authors conclude. However, "high-output access points are not recommended in areas of care and follow-up of pacemaker and implantable cardioverter defibrillator patients."

Abstract (#1982)

Physician's Briefing