German researchers set up a standard airport metal detector in their clinic and used it to study 348 people who came in for routine checks of their pacemakers or implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs). The patients had a wide variety of European and American manufactured devices.
"Testing a lot of the different pacing devices, we have not seen any interference. Currently, patients are not obliged to walk through the metal detector gate, but if they did, it would not harm their health or their device," researcher Dr. Christof Kolb, Deutsches Herzzentrum Munchen, says in a news release.
The finding appears in the June 4 issue of the Journal of American College of Cardiology.
"Whether the results of this study mean that pacemaker or implantable cardioverter-defibrillator patients should be allowed to cross airport metal detector gates has to be determined by government authorities," Kolb says.
People with these devices are often warned to avoid airport metal detectors. The last study of the effect of airport metal detectors on heart devices was done 15 years ago.
Other devices, such as electronic theft detectors in stores, have been known to cause electromagnetic interference in heart devices.
In people with pacemakers, that kind of interference could block pacemaker signals and interrupt heart rhythm. In people with ICDs, electronic interference could cause the ICD to falsely detect a heart rhythm problem and administer a painful shock.