Background: Case reports suggest that the hand-held metal detectors used for security screening generate electromagnetic fields that may interfere with pacemaker and implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) function.
Objective: To assess changes in function of pacemakers and ICDs after exposure to hand-held metal detectors.
Design: Cross-sectional study.
Setting: Two medical centers in Europe.
Patients: 388 patients (209 with pacemakers and 179 with ICDs) presenting for routine follow-up of device function between September 2009 and December 2010.
Measurements: Abnormalities on electrocardiography suggestive of rhythm device malfunction (pacing inhibition, loss of capture, inappropriate mode switch, ventricular oversensing, and spontaneous reprogramming) after 30 seconds of exposure to 2 widely used hand-held metal detectors with a maximal electromagnetic flux density of 6.3 µT.
Results: No change in device function, including pacing or sensing abnormalities or device reprogramming, was observed in any patient.
Limitations: The study included a convenience sample of patients, and the number of different device models tested was small. Testing was conducted in 2 clinic settings.
Conclusion: Hand-held metal detectors did not affect the function of pacemakers or ICDs in this sample. The use of hand-held metal detectors for security screening is probably safe for patients with pacemakers and ICDs, but these findings require confirmation.
Primary Funding Source: None.