Keep cell phones away from pacemakers, researchers warn

Milan, Italy – People with pacemakers should keep “a safe distance” from smartphones – including holding phones to the ear opposite the pacemaker and not storing phones in shirt or jacket pockets over it – to help prevent shocks and avoid function disruptions in the cardiac devices, according to research presented June 22 at the EHRA EUROPACE – CARDIOSTIM 2015 Congress.

Researchers from the German Heart Center conducted more than 3,400 tests on 308 patients who had three types of smartphones placed on their skin above their pacemaker. The phones underwent connecting, ringing, talking and disconnecting to test for electromagnetic interference, which pacemakers can erroneously detect, prompting them to briefly stop working, a press release states.

One patient was affected by EMI caused by the smartphones, leading researchers to say that although interference is uncommon, people who have pacemakers should continue to follow recommendations from device manufacturers and regulatory institutions, which advise keeping 5.9 to 7.9 inches between cardiac devices and mobile phones.