Airport screening and electric cars don’t affect cardiac implantable devices

People with cardiac implantable electronic devices (CIED) can be reassured that device functionality is not affected by electromagnetic fields generated by travel security screening, researchers say.

In a study of the effects of the millimetre-wave body scanners used at airports, German researchers found no evidence of electromagnetic interference on cardiac implantable electronic device function.

The study of 302 patients with implantable devices saw them undergo personal screening with a body scanner and also standing in close proximity to the scanner to simulate accidental close exposure.

Presenting the findings at the CSANZ New Zealand meeting in Wellington on June 13, Dr Carsten Lennerz and colleagues from the German Heart Centre, Munich, said there were no episodes of inhibition of pacing, upper-rate tracking, inappropriate tachycardia detection, or spontaneous device reprogramming.

Similarly there was no change in pacing or sensing thresholds, or lead impedance measurements after scanning. None of the cardiac implantable devices were identified by the scanner.

Dr Lennerz said the findings had implications for the current advice given to patients with cardiac implantable electronic devices to request manual security checks because of concerns about device malfunction with electromagnetic interference (EMI).

“No EMI events were detected during the use of millimetre-wave body scanners, suggesting that their use is safe and there is no need for specific protocols or precautions,” he said.

Patients with a CIED need not disclose medical information regarding their device at security checkpoints, he added.

In a separate study, the researchers also showed that the electromagnetic fields in electric cars did not affect functionality of cardiac implantable electronic devices.

No abnormalities in device function such as oversensing with pacing inhibition, inappropriate therapy, or mode-switching were seen in 104 patients with implantable devices when exposed to the electromagnetic fields while driving or charging four electric cars  – the Nissan Leaf, Tesla Model S, BMW i3 and VW eUp .

The largest electromagnetic field detected was along the charging cable during high-current charging (103µT), whereas the electromagnetic field strength in the cabin was lower,  at 2.1–3.6µT.

“Driving and charging of electric cars is likely safe for patients with CIEDs. However, future technology such as electric car super-chargers are likely to produce larger electromagnetic fields that may create clinically meaningful EMI,” the researchers said.

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