Danger for patients with pacemakers from electric cars?

Danger for patients with pacemakers from electric cars?

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Electric cars pose no danger to patients with pacemakers

Every year over 100,000 pacemakers are implanted in Germany. Affected patients are advised to be careful with certain electrical devices, as this can disrupt the function of the pacemaker. However, electric cars pose no danger to people with pacemakers, as an investigation has now shown.

Some electrical devices can interfere with the function of pacemakers

Enormous progress has been made in cardiac medicine in recent years. For example, scientists from Great Britain have achieved positive results with new pacemakers, which makes the actual operation superfluous, since the device is pushed into the heart through a vein. And scientists from the United States reported experiments with pacemakers without batteries that could get electricity from organs. But despite all the innovations, patients with a pacemaker still have to be careful with certain electrical devices. For example, it is often advised to keep smartphones away from pacemakers. With newer products, however, this problem no longer appears to exist. However, a certain safety distance should be maintained for some devices such as drills or induction cookers. Apparently, people with pacemakers don't have to worry about electric cars.

More than 100,000 pacemakers are used every year

As the German Heart Foundation reports in a message, several million people in Germany suffer from heart failure and irregular heartbeat.

Many sufferers need a pacemaker or implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD / "Defi") to regulate their heart rhythm.

According to the German Heart Report, around 110,000 pacemakers and ICDs are newly implanted in Germany every year.

Both heart implants can react to strong electromagnetic fields prone to interference by the devices misinterpreting these fields as their own cardiac activity of the pacemaker or ICD wearer (so-called "oversensing") and thereby causing a dangerous suspension of the pumping work of the heart or incorrectly provoking ICD shock deliveries can.

Electric cars generate an electromagnetic field so that these vehicles could also interfere with pacemakers and ICDs.

Since the spread of electric cars and their use by cardiac patients is likely to increase, there is great interest in cardiac medicine in investigations into whether these interfering factors can be of concern. However, meaningful studies have so far been lacking.

Uncertainty in heart patients

That is why the cardiologist Dr. med. Carsten Lennerz, senior physician at the German Heart Center Munich (DHM), carried out an investigation to clarify whether pacemaker and defibrillation patients are affected by harmful interference from electric cars, when driving the car and when charging.

The work was awarded the August Wilhelm and Lieselotte Becht Research Prize by the German Heart Research Foundation (DSHF).

"The findings of this work are important for doctors and for thousands of cardiac patients who will use electric cars more and more in their private and professional lives in the future," said the cardiac surgeon and chair of the Scientific Advisory Board of the DSHF, Prof. Dr. Hellmut Oelert.

"Only reliable data enables doctors to make recommendations to their patients in this area and to take away unnecessary fears from patients."

The study was published in the specialist magazine "Annals of Internal Medicine".

"Many pacemaker and defi wearers often react with great uncertainty to new electrical devices such as electric cars because of possible interference," explained Lennerz.

"Our investigation is intended to provide patients and doctors with a more reliable data basis in order to avoid unnecessary restrictions on the use of electric cars."

Study shows that electric cars are safe - for the time being

The researchers tested four electric car models with the highest market share (at the start of the investigation) among 108 subjects with cardiac pacemakers or ICDs from all manufacturers (pacemakers / ICDs hereinafter referred to as “CIEDs”: Cardiac Implantable Electronic Devices).

Each study participant was assigned one of the four electric cars and accelerated it to the maximum on a rolling test bench, drove up to 120 km / h and then charged the car with electricity.

The electromagnetic field inside and outside the car when driving and charging was measured. The interior of the vehicle is very well shielded against electromagnetic fields.

Charging with electricity is said to be the more critical moment, if any, because the strongest electromagnetic fields occur here.

An electrocardiogram (EKG) was recorded in the test subjects while driving on the rolling test stand in order to register malfunctions of the CIED function triggered by electromagnetic fields.

"Our investigations showed no evidence that the electro-cars cause serious electromagnetic interference for cardiac patients, which could interfere with CIEDs' function," explained Lennerz.

"Malfunctions of the heart implants due to the use of electric cars are therefore unlikely," said the expert.

However, a permanent all-clear is not possible: "Electric cars are rapidly evolving in terms of construction and charging technology, which will necessitate new tests in the future."

Dreaded complications

CIEDs (pacemakers / ICD) have the function of receiving electrical signals from the heart and using these signals to control the CIED pulses. These impulses ensure undisturbed pumping of the heart.

In the vicinity of an electromagnetic field, CIEDs can perceive signals that have nothing to do with the heartbeat, but misinterpret these signals as "heartbeat" (= electromagnetic interference).

According to the German Heart Foundation, the device would incorrectly stop and the patient's heart would then no longer be adequately supported in its pumping work.

Defibrillators could also incorrectly deliver shock therapies if the electromagnetic field were misinterpreted as a ventricular rhythm disorder.

It is also discussed that electromagnetic fields could reprogram the implanted electrical cardiac devices. (ad)

Author and source information

Video: What Happens When You Drown an Electric Car? (November 2022).