Mobiles phones dangerous near hospital beds
12 September 2007
Mobile phones should come no closer than one metre to
hospital beds and equipment, according to research by the Academic Medical
Centre of the University of Amsterdam and the Netherlands Organisation for
Applied Scientific Research.
The study, published in Critical Care
(1) showed that incidents of electromagnetic interference
(EMI) from second and third-generation mobile phones occurred at a median
distance of 3cm, but effects were observed up to 500cm from equipment.
this particular study, the research team examined the effects of General
Packet Radio Service (GPRS) and Universal Mobile Telecommunications System
(UMTS) signals on critical-care equipment such as ventilators and
pacemakers. Almost 50 EMI incidents were recorded: 75% were significant or
hazardous. Hazardous incidents varied from a total switch off and restart of
mechanical ventilator and complete stops without alarms in syringe pumps to
incorrect pulsing by an external pacemaker.
Incidents were observed in a range of medical equipment: intensive care
unit ventilator, critical care monitor, syringe pump, volumetric infusion
pump, intra-aortic balloon pump, haemofiltration/dialysis, external
pacemaker, defibrillator, 12-lead EKG, fluid warmer, enteral feeding pump,
and air humidifier.
The second generation (2.5G) GPRS signal caused the
highest number of EMI incidents at over 60% whereas the third generation
(3G) UMTS signal was responsible for just 13%. EMI incidents also occurred a
greater distance with GPRS, with a hazardous incident even at three meters.
While first-generation mobile phones are used mainly for voice transmission,
2.5G and 3G phones enable internet access, sending and receiving data. They
entered the market, however, with little proof regarding their safe use in
the medical environment.
Dr Erik van Lieshout, lead researcher from the
Academic Medical Centre, University of Amsterdam, said; “Our work has real
implications for present hospital restrictions of mobile phone use in
“It is unlikely that mobile phone induced EMI in hospitals
will be eradicated in the near future so the one metre rule currently in
place should continue, as it is relatively safe,” commented Dr van Lieshout.
Wireless technology is increasingly being used in hospitals to enhance
patient care, eg intelligent pager systems with smart phones, personal
digital assistants with internet access, and telemonitoring.
researchers claim that the international standard on electromagnetic
compatibility by the International Electrotechnical
Commission is insufficient to safeguard medical equipment completely from
EMI by mobile phones, whether GSM, GPRS or UMTS, and that the present
industrial standard lacks stipulations for eliminating EMI in medical
1. Erik Jan van Lieshout, Sabine N van
der Veer, Reinout Hensbroek, Johanna C Korevaar, Margreeth B Vroom and
Marcus J Schultz. Interference by new generations mobile phones on critical
care medical equipment. Critical Care 2007, 11:R98.
The article is
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