Heart Beat: Cell phones and heart devices

Heart Beat

Cell phones and heart devices

Published: March, 2014

When cell phones first became popular, cardiologists worried that they might interfere with pacemakers and implantable cardioverter/defibrillators (ICDs). A widely reported 1997 New England Journal of Medicine study showed that interference did indeed occur, mostly when the phone was held directly over the pacemaker.

Today's pacemakers and ICDs are built to ignore signals from mobile phones and other electronic devices. Two studies, one in the August 3, 2005, International Journal of Cardiology and the other in the August 2005 Heart, reinforce the key message to cell phone users who have a pacemaker or ICD: Using a cell phone is safe as long as it isn't right next to the pacemaker or ICD. That means don't keep your cell phone in a pocket near your heart device and hold the phone to the ear on the side opposite it.

To continue reading this article, you must log in.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise

New subscriptions to Harvard Health Online are temporarily unavailable. Click the button below to learn about our other subscription offers.

Learn More »