Security Scanners Safe for Patients With Heart Devices: Study

TUESDAY, Aug. 28, 2018 — Those full-body scanners used for security checks in airports, train stations and some public buildings are safe for people with implanted heart pacemakers and defibrillators, a new study found.

Nearly 4 million people worldwide have these types of devices, but it’s been unclear whether their functioning is affected by body scanners, the study authors said.

The scanners emit millimeter waves that bounce off the skin and create an image of the body and any hidden objects, explained the authors, who presented their findings this week at the annual meeting of the European Society of Cardiology, in Munich, Germany.

The study included 300 patients in Germany with a pacemaker, implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) or cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) device. The functioning of the devices was monitored as the patients underwent a full-body security scan in a hospital.

“We found no evidence of electromagnetic interference or device malfunction with the full-body scanner we tested and can conclude that scanning is safe for patients with implanted cardiac devices,” said study author Dr. Carsten Lennerz, of the German Heart Centre Munich, and the German Center for Cardiovascular Research.

“This may be because cardiac devices filter out high-frequency signals such as millimeter waves, the waves hardly penetrate the body at all, and the scan time is very short [usually around 100 milliseconds],” he said in a society news release.

Lennerz said a multicenter survey of 800 patients with cardiac devices found that 80 percent worry about the safety of security body scanners and would refuse a scan, preferring a manual check instead. “This takes more time and requires giving medical details to security staff,” he said.

“The study suggests that millimeter wave body scanners pose no threat to patients with pacemakers, ICDs and CRT devices, and there is no need for specific protocols or restrictions on their use,” Lennerz concluded.

The society’s meeting concludes Wednesday. Research presented at medical meetings is usually viewed as preliminary if it hasn’t been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

The American Heart Association has more on implantable medical devices.

Posted: August 2018

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