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Cell phones and pacemakers.

Dear Dr. Zipes,

We need information on cell phones that are compatible with my pacemaker. We have an older phone and use it less than 30 minutes a month. I try to use it on the side opposite the pacemaker.

Service is unsatisfactory when we travel, and I want to upgrade my cell phone. How much risk does a digital phone involve? I would hate to sign a new contract and find using the service was a risk to me. No need to get into pricing. Just comment on safety issues please.
Jeanette Tiffany
Albuquerque, New Mexico


Modern pacemakers are sophisticated medical devices that have become a mainstay in helping people live longer and better. Because the pacemaker measures minute electrical signals from the heart, there is the potential that stray electrical noise in the environment could interfere with the pacemaker's normal function, However, because pacemakers have been so carefully engineered, the chance of any interference is low. Cellular telephones generate stray electrical noise when they are used for communication and rarely can interfere with a pacemaker. This appears to be slightly more likely with the newer digital phones. Interference is exceptionally rare if the phone is used more than 6 inches from the pacemaker.

Prudence would dictate that the phone be applied to the ear opposite the pacemaker implantation site. Features in the phone should include a good volume control to compensate for reduced hearing. It would also be a good idea not to carry the phone in a chest pocket. If you feel funny while using the phone, stop using it and check with your pacemaker doctor.

Note: Dr. Douglas Zipes, Heart Watch Editor, is a distinguished professor of medicine, pharmacology, and toxicology and director of the Krannert Institute of Cardiology and division of cardiology at the Indiana University School of Medicine. In addition, he and his wife, Joan, have written a compelling novel that deals with stolen hearts for transplant.

Send letters to: Editor, Medical Update, 1100 Waterway Blvd., Indianapolis, IN 46202 or e-mail cservaasmd@aol.com.
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Author:Tiffany, Jeanette
Publication:Medical Update
Article Type:Letter to the Editor
Date:Jul 1, 2002
Words:340
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