Using cell phones in hospitals can be dangerous

Sunday, February 15, 2009


Using cellular phones near hospital beds and critical care medical equipment can lead to electromagnetic interference.

Critical care equipment is vulnerable to electromagnetic interference posed by new age cellular phones. It can disrupt pacemakers, switch off ventilators and cause a lot of problems, Health news reported.



This news item from Islamabad

Relates to an old study from 2007
Interference by new-generation mobile phones on critical care medical equipment

Erik Jan van Lieshout1,2 email, Sabine N van der Veer3 email, Reinout Hensbroek4 email, Johanna C Korevaar5 email, Margreeth B Vroom1 email and Marcus J Schultz1,6 email Critical Care 2007, 11:R98


The '1 meter rule', specifying the minimum distance to keep a mobile phone from medical equipment or the bedside as proposed in the past, seems safe, although the rule does not exclude EMI by new-generation mobile phones entirely. Restrictive policies should be facilitated by offering numerous areas that are easily accessed throughout the healthcare facility where the use of mobile phones is clearly permitted.

Key messages

* Incidents of EMI caused by second-generation and third-generation mobile phones occurred in 43% of 61 critical care medical devices, of which 33% were classified as hazardous.

* The hazardous incidents varied from a total switch-off and restart of a mechanical ventilator, through complete stops without alarms in syringe pumps, to incorrect pulsing by an external pacemaker.

* The median distance of all incidents was 3 cm, with a considerable range up to 500 cm.

*The policy to keep mobile phones '1 meter' from the critical care bedside in combination with easily accessed areas of unrestricted use still seems warranted.

Of course the UK's Adam Burgess seems not to have seen any studies!
BMJ 2006;333:767-768 (14 October), doi:10.1136/bmj.38995.599769.80 Editorial Use of mobile phones in hospitals

New guidelines are less restrictive but still overcautious

The first 150 words of the full text of this article appear below.

Mobile phones are widely used, but their use is still restricted in certain places including petrol stations, some areas in hospitals, and aircraft. Restrictions have been justified on the grounds of public safety, but the reasons behind these restrictions are often unclear. In hospitals, patients, visitors, and staff routinely breeze through wards with their mobile phones switched on. As yet we have no evidence that this behaviour has serious consequences for patients. The lack of such evidence has encouraged the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to advise more selective restrictions on the use of mobile phones in hospitals (box).1 While welcoming this relaxation, we wonder why it has taken so long to happen and why it has the feeling of extracting a generous concession. The liberalisation sits alongside proposed new restrictions, such as a ban on the use of camera phones in patient areas. The regulations also . . . [Full text of this article]

Stuart W G Derbyshire, senior lecturer in psychology

University of Birmingham, School of Psychology, Birmingham BI5 2TT

Adam Burgess, senior lecturer in sociology

University of Kent, School of Social Policy, Sociology, and Social Research, Canterbury CT2 7NF
Cellular Phones, Public Fears, and a Culture of Precaution
By Adam Burges
Invasion of the Entryists

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