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Newer Cell Phones Still Interrupt Medical Equipment

Electromagnetic interference caused by mobile phones occurred at median distance of 3 cm

THURSDAY, Sept. 6 (HealthDay News) -- New-generation mobile phones should still be kept at least one meter away from hospital equipment, as they can cause electromagnetic interference with critical care devices, according to a report published online Sept. 6 in Critical Care.

Erik Jan van Lieshout, M.D., of the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, and colleagues assessed the impact that second- and third-generation mobile phone signals had on critical care equipment. They tested two General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) signals and one Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) signal in the proximity of 61 medical devices.

Overall, 48 cases of interference occurred with 26 devices, 33 percent of which were classified as hazardous, 42 percent as significant, and 12 percent as light. The majority of incidents were caused by the GPRS signals. The median distance between mobile phones and medical devices when incidents occurred was 3 cm, though one hazardous incident occurred at a distance greater than one meter.

"Critical care equipment is vulnerable to electromagnetic interference by new-generation wireless telecommunication technologies with median distances of about 3 cm. The policy to keep mobile phones 'one meter' from the critical care bedside in combination with easily accessed areas of unrestricted use still seems warranted," the authors write.

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