Some Wireless Devices Safe Near Pacemakers

Personal digital assistants didn't interfere with pacemakers, defibrillators

THURSDAY, Dec. 30, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Electronic health record devices don't interfere with heart pacemakers or implantable cardioverter-defibrillators, says a new Mayo Clinic study.

The findings are important because many hospitals have installed wireless local area networks (WLAN) that let doctors and other health workers use wireless devices to get quick access to information when they're treating patients. Many patients also use wireless communication devices.

"When new devices are used near a patient with a life-sustaining implantable device, there is a potential of electromagnetic interference, and assessment of potential interactions is critical," lead researcher Dr. David Hayes said in a prepared statement.

"Despite the increasing sophistication of sensing circuitry in contemporary pacemakers and implantable cardioverter-defibrillators, these devices are still susceptible to electromagnetic interference and physicians need good data telling them which ones are or aren't. And as technology advances, we'll need continual testing to stay up to date," Hayes said.

He and his colleagues tested the effect of an HP Compaq iPAQ Pocket PC Personal digital assistant (PDA) with a Cisco Aironet WLAN card on the cardiac devices, which weren't implanted in a patient's body.

Hayes said a test of the effects of PDAs on devices implanted in patients would be easy to design and conduct.

"Such testing is necessary to provide definitive answers for individual patients. For example, a patient who is pacemaker dependent may ask whether a specific WLAN device can be used and/or carried safely in a coat pocket when turned on near the patient's device," Hayes said.

The study appears in the current issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

More information

The American Heart Association has more about pacemakers.

SOURCE: Mayo Clinic, news release, Dec. 21, 2004
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