cellphones

Yet another in a string of studies showing the relative safety of cell phones in hospitals has been published. I would stop posting on this if more hospitals would update their cell phone policies; but alas, this is health care.

Once again, Mayo Clinic Proceedings publishes a paper (abstract here) on more tests (as if more were needed) designed to assess the dangers posed by cell phones for medical devices. From the story on Yahoo News:

Tests at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota showed
normal use of cell phones, also called mobile phones, caused no
noticeable interference with patient care equipment, they said.

But a portable CD player caused an abnormal
electrocardiographic (ECG) reading when a patient used it near
one of the leads of the device, according to one of several
reports in the March issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

And at least two reports suggest that anti-theft devices
set up near the doors of retail stores can cause implantable
rhythm devices such as pacemakers and defibrillators to
malfunction.

Most hospitals forbid the use of cell phones.

Dr. David Hayes and colleagues said their tests suggest the
ban is unmerited. They tested cell phones using two different
technologies from different carriers, switching them on near
192 different medical devices.

During 300 tests run over five months, they reported no
trouble with the equipment.

Bottom line: interference happens, from all kinds of sources. Devices shown to be relatively safe should be allowed. And regardless of whether you ban cell phones or not, you should train staff to be able to recognize electrical interference and know how to respond when interference strikes. The anecdotal case of a cell phone resetting a ventilator really doesn't justify banning phones when there are a myriad of devices that could interfere with a medical device if put in close proximity – like a portable CD player.

If you'd like more info on cell phones in hospitals, use the Google search box in the left hand column – enter “cell phone” and be sure to click the “this site” button.