March 11, 2007

EMIssion highly improbable

Filed under: — mlazoff

The March issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings published a trio of studies looking into potential electromagnetic interference (EMI) of mobile devices in health care. They found rare instances of interference from mobile devices involving implantable cardioverter defibrillators and electrocardiograms outside the hospital setting. Importantly, they found no interference using mobile devices within hospitals, although only a handful of mobile and medical devices were tested. The hospital tests were conducted by the same group who found in 2005 that older analog cell telephones produced the most interference when placed within 3 feet of (also generally older) medical devices. 

The issue’s editorial closes with a summary of current standards and suggestions for the future: “On its Web site (, the FDA’s recommendations are more or less generic statements that medical facilities should check their equipment, identify locations where EMI could be problematic (eg, operating rooms and intensive care units), and educate staff. On the basis of the results of the 3 reports in the current issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings it would be appropriate for the FDA to take a more explicit stand that EMI is unlikely to occur in a hospital setting and that internal regulations in health care facilities should reflect that fact. Recommendations should also reiterate that the risk is not zero and that medical personnel should remain vigilant in order to detect and mitigate the uncommon occurrence of clinically relevant EMI of medical devices.”

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