DOCTOR'S VIEW ARCHIVE
Cellular Phones Can Cause Pacemaker Problems
ROCHESTER, MINN-Wireless hand-held (cellular) telephones
are becoming more and more popular as their technology improves.
Heart pacemakers operate, with a timer, to stimulate
the heart muscle to contract by regularly sending a discharge
from a battery pack through a wire with a lead placed into the
There have been reports of potential interference
between cellular telephones and heart pacemakers. These reports
prompted a multicenter study of this issue.
Dr. David L. Hayes and associates published their
study of 980 patients with heart pacemakers using five different
types of cellular phones. This report (New England Journal
of Medicine 1997;336:1473-9) suggests that cellular phones
can interfere with the function of heart pacemakers.
Of important note, the pacemaker interference by
the cellular phones was only found to be significant when the
phones were held over the pacemakers-not when placed in the normal
listening position over the ear.
Further, of the two basic types of telephones, the
researchers found that analogue telephones were significantly
safer (less pacemaker interference) than digital phones.