Those who are nostalgic for old radios will remember when there was interference that somehow disturbed the transmission, making the voice croak. Today something similar – a disorder, but silent – could also occur in people who wear devices capable of detecting vital parameters, such as heart rate or pressure, breathing or other, when it comes to wearers of devices such as defibrillators or pacemakers . To warn, even if it is only initial evidence in the laboratory and not on patients, and which therefore needs confirmation, is a research published in Heart Rhythmcoordinated by Benjamin Sanchez Terronesof the University of Utah.

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Three devices under review

Three different cardiac resynchronization therapy devices were evaluated in the study. Only in the laboratory, it must always be remembered. To evaluate what could happen, obviously in an experimental key, bioimpedance detection technology was used. This approach is based on the emission of a very small and imperceptible current of electricity (measured in microamperes) in the body. Electric current flows, providing a measured response from the sensor to determine a person’s body composition (ie, skeletal muscle mass or fat mass), stress level, or vital signs, such as respiratory rate.

Electrical interference exceeding guidelines

“The bioimpedance detection generated electrical interference that exceeded guidelines accepted by the Food and Drug Administration and interfered with the proper functioning of the cardiac implantable electrical device,” Terrones commented. we cannot speak of an immediate or clear risk to patients who wear devices that track physical activity and vital parameters”. What to do for the future? Focus on clinical studies that investigate the situation.

Heart door

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We are only in the experimental stage

Experts have been working for some time to understand what happens in those who use smartphones or other similar devices and wear devices that have the task of putting the heart back into rhythm if necessary. This work adds a piece to the knowledge because it demonstrates through a simulation that the devices that inject a current into the human body for bioimpedance measurement purposes can, in certain situations, exceed the levels accepted by the standard, also carrying out experimental tests.

“It turns out that, in some conditions, the model used indicates that the limit voltage levels indicated in the standard can be exceeded – he explains Philip Molinariprofessor at the BioLab of the Turin Polytechnic – at an experimental level, by applying similar voltages to the explanted devices, the researchers observed malfunctions that were not fully described”.

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Other control systems

Be careful though. We must not limit ourselves to this observation. According to the Turin experts, if it is true that active implantable devices can be made to work incorrectly by currents generated by other devices positioned on the wearer’s body, “it is undeniable that in addition to the purely electrical aspects to which the article refers, at the firmware level, these systems have a series of protections against external interference that should overcome the barrier of hardware filtering – the expert reiterates – Normally the user manuals of the devices for the patient warn him against possible negative interactions, the doctors who perform the implant generally give behavioral information to the patient and the manufacturers of devices that inject currents into the human body forbid their use on implanted device bearers”.

Follow the instructions for use carefully

So the instructions for use are there. And they must be followed. remembering that at the moment we are facing a very minimal risk. “But zero risk does not exist and when one resorts to the use of a heart rhythm regulation device, the benefits deriving from the implant largely outweigh the risks deriving from it – points out Molinari -. Obviously, with the progress of technology, the risks will be lowered further.”

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