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Identification Systems Can Interfere With Cardiac Devices

But unlikely to be a serious public health issue since no problems have been reported

THURSDAY, Jan. 14 (HealthDay News) -- In vitro testing has shown that low- and high-frequency signals from radiofrequency identification (RFID) systems can interfere with pacemakers and implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs), although this is unlikely to be a serious public health issue since no problems have yet been reported, according to a study in the January issue of Heart Rhythm.

Seth J. Seidman, from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in Silver Spring, Md., and colleagues exposed 15 implantable pacemakers and 15 ICDs in vitro to 13 passive RFID readers at low frequency (134 kHz), high frequency (13.56 MHz), and ultra high frequency (915 MHz).

The researchers observed a reaction (such as pacing inhibition or inappropriate pacing) to low frequency in 67 percent of pacemaker tests (maximum distance 60 cm) and 47 percent of ICD tests (maximum distance 40 cm), and a reaction to high frequency in 6 percent of all pacemaker tests (maximum distance 22.5 cm) and 1 percent of all ICD tests (maximum distance 7.5 cm). No reactions were observed to ultra high frequency or continuous wave.

"Although there is in vitro testing evidence for concern for implantable pacemaker and ICD electromagnetic interference at low frequency and high frequency, the FDA has not received any incident reports of pacemaker or ICD electromagnetic interference caused by any RFID system," Seidman and colleagues conclude. "We do not believe the current situation reveals an urgent public health risk."

One author is an employee of Medtronic and another is an employee of Boston Scientific.

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