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Potential for Personal Digital Assistant Interference With Implantable Cardiac Devices

Mayo Clinic Proceedings
Publication Date
DOI: 10.4065/79.12.1527
  • Design
  • Physics


OBJECTIVE To determine whether the wireless local area network (WLAN) technology, specifically the Personal Digital Assistant (PDA), interferes with implantable cardiac pacemakers and defibrillators. MATERIAL AND METHODS Various pacemakers and defibrillators were tested in vitro at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn, between March 6 and July 30, 2003. These cardiac devices were exposed to an HP Compaq iPAQ PDA fitted with a Cisco Aironet WLAN card. Initial testing was designed to show whether the Aironet card radiated energy in a consistent pattern from the antenna of the PDA to ensure that subsequent cardiac device testing would not be affected by the orientation of the PDA to the cardiac device. Testing involved placing individual cardiac devices in a simulator and uniformly exposing each device at its most sensitive programmable value to the WLAN card set to maximum power. RESULTS During testing with the Cisco WLAN Aironet card, all devices programmed to the unipolar or bipolar configuration single- or dual-chamber mode had normal pacing and sensing functions and exhibited no effects of electromagnetic interference except for 1 implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD). This aberration was determined to relate to the design of the investigators' testing apparatus and not to the output of the PDA. The ICD device appropriately identified and labeled the electromagnetic aberration as “noise.” CONCLUSIONS We documented no electromagnetic interference caused by the WLAN technology by using in vitro testing of pacemakers and ICDs; however, testing ideally should be completed in vivo to confirm the lack of any clinically important interactions.

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