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Open Access Highly Accessed Research

Interference by new-generation mobile phones on critical care medical equipment

Erik Jan van Lieshout12*, Sabine N van der Veer3, Reinout Hensbroek4, Johanna C Korevaar5, Margreeth B Vroom1 and Marcus J Schultz16

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Intensive Care Medicine, Academic Medical Centre, University of Amsterdam, Meibergdreef 9, 1105 AZ Amsterdam, The Netherlands

2 Mobile Intensive Care Unit, Academic Medical Centre, University of Amsterdam, Meibergdreef 9, 1105 AZ Amsterdam, The Netherlands

3 Department of Medical Engineering, Academic Medical Centre, University of Amsterdam, Meibergdreef 9, 1105 AZ Amsterdam, The Netherlands

4 Department of Prevention and Health, Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research, Zernikedreef 9, 2333 CK Leiden, The Netherlands

5 Department of Clinical Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Bioinformatics, Academic Medical Centre, University of Amsterdam, Meibergdreef 9, 1105 AZ Amsterdam, The Netherlands

6 Laboratory of Experimental Intensive Care and Anaesthesiology, Academic Medical Centre, University of Amsterdam, Meibergdreef 9, 1105 AZ Amsterdam, The Netherlands

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Critical Care 2007, 11:R98  doi:10.1186/cc6115


See related commentary by Gladman and Lapinsky, http://ccforum.com/content/11/5/165

Published: 6 September 2007

Abstract

Introduction

The aim of the study was to assess and classify incidents of electromagnetic interference (EMI) by second-generation and third-generation mobile phones on critical care medical equipment.

Methods

EMI was assessed with two General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) signals (900 MHz, 2 W, two different time-slot occupations) and one Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) signal (1,947.2 MHz, 0.2 W), corresponding to maximal transmit performance of mobile phones in daily practice, generated under controlled conditions in the proximity of 61 medical devices. Incidents of EMI were classified in accordance with an adjusted critical care event scale.

Results

A total of 61 medical devices in 17 categories (27 different manufacturers) were tested and demonstrated 48 incidents in 26 devices (43%); 16 (33%) were classified as hazardous, 20 (42%) as significant and 12 (25%) as light. The GPRS-1 signal induced the most EMI incidents (41%), the GRPS-2 signal induced fewer (25%) and the UMTS signal induced the least (13%; P < 0.001). The median distance between antenna and medical device for EMI incidents was 3 cm (range 0.1 to 500 cm). One hazardous incident occurred beyond 100 cm (in a ventilator with GRPS-1 signal at 300 cm).

Conclusion

Critical care equipment is vulnerable to EMI by new-generation wireless telecommunication technologies with median distances of about 3 cm. The policy to keep mobile phones '1 meter' from the critical care bedside in combination with easily accessed areas of unrestricted use still seems warranted.