Study: High-tech smartphones may interfere with cardiac devices

WASHINGTON — There have been big changes over the years in mobile phone technology, but the guidance offered years ago to basic cellphone users with pacemakers is still valid in 2015.

Researchers say patients with implanted cardiac devices still need to keep a bit of extra distance — roughly six to eight inches — between today’s high-tech smartphones and their hearts.

A team of cardiologists from Munich, Germany investigated the interaction between the latest generation smartphones and state-of-the-art cardiac devices implanted in 308 patients.

They found there is a chance — albeit a small one — that electromagnetic interference from a smartphone could cause one of these devices to misread heart signals and malfunction.

The lead author of the study says patients with implanted cardiac devices — pacemakers, defibrillators and the like — can use a smartphone but should hold it to the opposite ear during conversation and never put it in a shirt or jacket pocket over the heart.

The findings validate guidelines issued by the Food and Drug Administration back in the days of early cellphone service — long before smartphones came on the market, and mobile network standards moved from GSM to LTE and UMTS.

The FDA it is continuing to monitor the use of mobile phones for possible interactions with medical devices.

The German study was released at a meeting of European cardiologists held in Milan, Italy.

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