An Overview

Medical Implants: an Overview  

About 10% of Americans have a medical implant of some kind–i.e. a cardiac pacemaker, an insulin pump, a Deep Brain Stimulator. How do signals from mobile phones, metal detectors, hybrid cars and other electronics affect medical implants and medical equipment?

A brochure from pacemaker manufacturer Biotronik states that “pacemakers are protected against the impact of electric devices and their radiation to the greatest extent possible. However, if you should experience symptoms, such as increased heartbeat, irregular pulse or dizziness in the vicinity of electric devices, please move away from the device immediately and/or turn off the external device.” The brochure also says, “You can use (a cellular) phone without hesitation.” And, it states, “If you want to use a cellular phone, you should talk to your physician. To prevent possible interference, you should always hold the cell phone at the side opposite from the implanted pacemaker. Even when not in use (emphasis added) you should not keep it close to the pacemaker.”

Testing and regulation of the effects of interference on medical implants are long overdue. After he had a DBS implanted for Parkinson’s, a man drove his hybrid car. Each time the car’s charging system came on at a stoplight, his DBS shut off.

While the FDA has the authority to regulate digitalized and wireless medical devices, Congress does not provide it the funding to do so.

In the U.S., Toronto, Canada and in Sweden, some hospitals have designated low-EMF zones.