Ismail MM, Badreldin AM, Heldwein M, Hekmat K. Third-Generation Mobile Phones (UMTS) Do Not Interfere with Permanent Implanted Pacemakers. Pacing Clin Electrophysiol. Feb 18, 2010 Ahead of print.
Electromagnetic fields (EMF) can interfere with permanent pacemaker (PPM) function. Third generation mobile phones (Universal Mobile Telecommunication System, UMTS) were recently introduced in Europe and their safety with regard to their interference with PPM is not yet known.
The objective of this study was to test whether UMTS digital cellular telephones interfere with different models of permanent pacemakers.
The study included 100 patients, 23 with single-chamber pacemakers (14 models from 4 manufacturers) and 77 with dual-chamber pacemakers (31 models from 5 manufacturers) implanted between June 1990 and April 2005. Two UMTS cellular phones were tested: a Nokia 6650 operating in the T-Mobile net and a Motorola A835 operating in the Vodafone net. The UMTS system is a code division multiple access (CDMA) technology working in a non-pulsed transmission mode in the frequency range between 1,800 MHz and 2,200 MHz. The maximum power output of both phones is 0.25 W. In order to simulate the worst case scenario, the pacemakers were programmed to unipolar sensing and pacing modes, and a maximum sensitivity setting was induced during continuous pacing of the patient. The phones were placed directly above the pacemaker pocket. The tests were conducted in the hospital chamber with the lowest signal strength of the phone, thus the phones had the maximum output. Surface electrocardiograms (ECGs), intracardiac electrograms, and marker channels were continuously recorded during the calls from a stationary phone to the cellular phones. After the tests, the pacemakers were checked for any changes in the programmed parameters.
The two cell phones did not interfere with any of the tested pacemakers, or with the marker channels and the intracardiac electrocardiogram of the pacemakers. No telemetric transmission problems were seen when the phone was located near the programming head.
Interpretation and Conclusion
The authors have concluded that, because of the high frequency band for the UMTS system and low output power, the third generation mobile phones are safe for patients with pacemakers. Potentially dangerous for patients is that both mobile phones can switch between UMTS and GSM modes, and the 900 MHz band of the GSM mode can interfere with pacemakers. The authors recommend that cellular phone manufacturers produce phones operating only the UMTS mode.