Electromagnetic interference from welding and motors on implantable cardioverter-defibrillators as tested in the electrically hostile work site

Joseph G. Fetter, David G. Benditt, Marshall S. Stanton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Objectives. This study was designed to determine the susceptibility of an implanted cardioverter-defibrillator to electromagnetic interference in an electrically hostile work site environment, with the ultimate goal of allowing the patient to return to work. Background. Normal operation of an implanted cardioverter-defibrillator depends on reliable sensing of the heart's electrical activity. Consequently, there is concern that external electromagnetic interference from external sources in the work place, especially welding equipment or motor-generator systems, may be sensed and produce inappropriate shocks or abnormal reed switch operation, temporarily suspending detection of ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation. Methods. The effects of electromagnetic interference on the operation of one type of implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (Medtronic models 7217 and 7219) was measured by using internal event counter monitoring in 10 patients operating arc welders at up to 900 A or working near 200-hp motors and 1 patient close to a locomotive starter drawing up to 400 A. Results. The electromagnetic interference produced two sources of potential interference on the sensing circuit or reed switch operation, respectively: 1) electrical fields with measured frequencies up to 50 MHz produced by the high currents during welding electrode activation, and 2) magnetic fields produced by the current in the welding electrode and cable. The defibrillator sensitivity was programmed to the highest (most sensitive) value: 0.15 mV (model 7219) or 0.3 mV (model 7217). The ventricular tachycardia and ventricular fibrillation therapies were temporarily turned off but the detection circuits left on. Conclusions. None of the implanted defibrillators tested were affected by oversensing of the electric field as verified by telemetry from the detection circuits. The magnetic field from 225-A welding current produced a flux density of 1.2 G; this density was not adequate to close the reed switch, which requires ~10 G. Our testing at the work site revealed an electrical interference with this type of defibrillator. Patients were allowed to return to work. The following precautions should be observed by the patient: 1) maintain a minimal distance of 2 ft (61 cm) from the welding arc and cables or large motors, 2) do not exceed tested currents with the welding equipment, 3) wear insulated gloves while operating electrical equipment, 4) verify that electrical equipment is properly grounded, and 5) stop welding and leave the work area immediately if a therapy is delivered or a feeling of lightheadedness is experienced.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)423-427
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of the American College of Cardiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1996


Dive into the research topics of 'Electromagnetic interference from welding and motors on implantable cardioverter-defibrillators as tested in the electrically hostile work site'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this