Turn Off Cell Phones in Hospital Rooms
Cell Phones May Interfere With Some Critical Care Medical Devices, Experts Say
WebMD News Archive
Sept. 5, 2007 -- Dutch doctors today reminded hospital visitors to turn off
their cell phones -- for the sake of health, not etiquette.
The reason: Cell phones may interfere with critical care equipment such as
ventilators and external pacemakers, report the University of Amsterdam's Erik
Jan van Lieshout, MD, and colleagues.
With that in mind, van Lieshout's team supports the practice of
keeping cell phones at least a meter (about 3.28 feet) away from medical
equipment or hospital beds.
That guideline "seems safe" but doesn't totally prevent the
possibility of cell phones causing electromagnetic interference in hospital
equipment, the researchers write.
They tested cell phones near 61 medical devices that weren't hooked up to
In the tests, the cell phones caused 48 "incidents" in 26 devices. A
third of those incidents were hazardous, such as totally switching off and
restarting a mechanical ventilator, completely stopping syringe pumps without
setting off an alarm, and causing incorrect pulses in an external
Another 42% of the incidents were classified as "significant" but
not hazardous. Examples of significant incidents were incorrectly setting off
an alarm or inaccurately monitoring blood pressure.
The remaining incidents were considered "light," such as disruptions
of monitor displays that didn't require immediate attention.
The researchers note that their testing situations were "worst-case"
scenarios. But they argue that their findings support restricting cell phone
use in hospitals to areas where electromagnetic interference wouldn't be a
The study appears online in the journal Critical Care.