Many people wonder if microwaves, metal detectors, mobile phones and medical equipment can negatively affect pacemakers. We examine pacemaker myths.

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Myths and Truth About Devices that Can Interfere with Pacemakers

pacemakers-microwave-myth

(JANUARY 2014) If you know someone who has a pacemaker or you have one yourself, we would like to dispel some long standing myths behind different types of devices that could interfere with the functionality of the pacemaker.

The Big Myth

Many people still believe, “anything with power can interrupt a pacemaker if you’re too close.” They often point to specific items like television remote controls, AM/FM radios, toasters, electric blankets and the big one – microwave ovens. While there was once potential for early pacemakers to react negatively around poorly constructed electrical devices, most modern pacemakers are shielded and have built-in features to guard against outside interference. In fact, the American Heart Association says household appliances, “won’t affect your pacemaker.”

Devices that Can Interfere with Pacemakers

With new technologies constantly making their ways into our everyday lives, there is always potential that new devices could create interference not accounted for when your pacemaker’s shield was developed. Wireless internet, mobile phones and modern security systems bring about new areas of risk.

Some retail stores’ theft deterrent systems use electronic article surveillance (EAS). They produce a frequency that may interact with your pacemaker, but short exposure shouldn’t trigger any adverse effects. Still, it’s not recommend that you stay near an EAS for an extended period. 

Metal Detectors (Airport Security)

Most airports have full body metal detectors that are safe for individuals with pacemakers. If you find yourself needing to be scanned with a metal detecting wand, however, notify airport security about your pacemaker. They should avoid keeping the wand directly around your pacemaker for longer than necessary. 

Mobile Phones

Mobile phone makers follow strict guidelines regarding frequencies they can transmit. This is regulated through agencies like the FTC in part to ensure there’s a minimal chance that phone calls interfere with pacemakers. With technology moving faster than mandated regulations, however, use caution when handling your mobile phone. Don’t rest the device over your pacemaker. You don’t want to risk a missed heart beat because you got a text message.

Medical Equipment

The medical community has alternative methods for making diagnoses in patients with pacemakers. Be sure to directly notify medical personnel of your pacemaker. Don’t just assume it’s in your chart. You don’t want to wake up strapped into an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) machine. It could be disastrous. A medical ID bracelet can help protect you in situations where you’re unconscious and unable to tell first responders or hospital staff about your pacemaker.

If you find yourself questioning if something will interfere with your pacemaker, it’s best to err on the side of caution and find alternatives.