Does RFID Affect Pacemakers?

By RFID Journal

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Ask The ExpertsDoes RFID Affect Pacemakers?
RFID Journal Staff asked 4 years ago

Has any medical literature published articles showing any adverse effects on a cardiac patient’s implanted device?

—Richard

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Richard,

A January 2010 study published in a medical journal showed that while interrogators of passive RFID tags do cause some electromagnetic interference to implantable pacemakers and implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs), the devices pose no urgent health risks. The research was conducted by the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, which is responsible for regulating companies that manufacture medical devices sold in the United States, as well as for regulating radiation-emitting electronic products (medical and non-medical), such as lasers, x-ray systems, ultrasound equipment, microwave ovens and color televisions.

The study was conducted in a laboratory and involved exposing 15 implantable pacemakers and 15 ICDs to an interrogation field. The researchers employed 13 RFID readers from six different manufacturers in three frequency bands: 134 kHz low-frequency (LF), 13.56 MHz high-frequency (HF) and 915 MHz ultrahigh-frequency (UHF). There were five LF, six HF and two UHF readers. Each device was turned on, and proper operation was verified.

In general, I think it would be safe for someone with a pacemaker to pass briefly through the field of an RFID reader. That being said, I would nonetheless suggest that those with pacemakers avoid steady exposure to readers. Our full report on the study is available here.

—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal

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