Electromagnetic fields generated by some electric car models do not seem strong enough to interfere with defibrillators or pacemakers. Does this mean that patients with implanted heart devices can safely drive electric vehicles?

Can Patients With Implanted Heart Device Safely Drive Electric Cars?

Findings of a new study published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine on April 23 showed that people with implanted cardiac devices designed to keep their hearts working smoothly can safely drive an electric car.

Researchers found that the technology used to power these cars won't interfere with implantable defibrillators or pacemakers.

Electromagnetic Interference

Electric cars can generate electromagnetic fields, which, when strong enough, could cause electronic heart devices to malfunction. Disrupting the normal function of pacemakers may cause the heart to stop beating, which could have fatal consequences. Defibrillators may also respond to electromagnetic interference (EMI) by delivering unnecessary shocks to the heart.

Study researcher Carsten Lennerz, from the German Heart Center, and colleagues measured the strength of magnetic field generated by four electric cars, namely the Tesla Model 85S, BMW i3, Nissan Leaf, and the Volkswagen e-up!

They also looked at how well defibrillators and pacemakers worked for more than 100 patients with implanted heart devices who sat in electric cars while driving was simulated.

The researchers found that the electromagnetic fields produced by the electric vehicles do not appear strong enough to cause interference with the implanted cardiac devices. The data show that restriction is not needed for implantable device patients who wish to drive electric cars.

"Electric cars represent a potential source of electromagnetic interference," the researchers wrote. "However, data are insufficient to determine their safety or whether their use should be restricted in patients with CIEDs."

Caution For Patients With Implanted Heart Device

Lennerz and colleagues, however, warned that the designs of electric vehicles and implanted heart devices constantly change. This means that the results of the study may not be the same for all patients driving these cars.

"Patients with pacemakers and defibrillators should see these results as encouraging for their safety in electric cars, but should be wary that rare events may still occur," Lennerz said.

Lennerz said that it is possible that the devices in the study did not malfunction because the components of the cars have electromagnetic shielding or the pacemakers and defibrillator may have technology that prevents them from responding to any signal from the cars.

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