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Banana Skins – April 2023 (#422-423)

422. ECG susceptibility to Gameboy™, iPod Nano™, cellphones, etc. 

This experiment investigates the susceptibility of an ECG machine to emissions from unintentional emitters such as Gameboy™, iPod Nano™, and intentional emitters such as a Cell Phone, Portable 2.4GHz Phone, Portable 5.8GHz Phone, and walkie-talkie. Experiments were conducted both in a “lab” and hospital environments. The authors demonstrate that all of the above popular electronic devices can interfere with an electrocardiogram (ECG) and corrupt the readings. 

Heartbeat changes ranging from 14 to 28 beats per minute were recorded due to EMI from these devices. Although doctors and Medical Technicians have been alerted to the possibility of interference from intentional emitters, they are generally unaware that popular unintentional emitters can corrupt their equipment. These results clearly illustrate the need for including both intentional and unintentional emitters in the EMI control of hospitals, medical offices and home care environments.

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Home care is becoming more and more common, and people are relying on medical equipment for either monitoring, medicating or relieving medical conditions. Generally people are not aware of the possibility that popular electronic devices can interfere with their medical equipment. Patients are generally not warned which home equipment should, or should not, be used in proximity of the medical device. In the home setting EMI from many intentional and unintentional emitters can result in faulty operation of the medical device and possibly lead to grave consequences for the home care patient.

According to the signage in the hospitals we have visited, iPods™, Gameboys™ and even the Gameboy™ Advance DS (with wireless) are not banned. Especially in a Childrens’ Hospital kids will play with these games or listen to their iPod™ to pass the time while undergoing lengthy tests and procedures. Airlines know that these devices should not be used during critical operations. Now we are proving that the same applies to Hospitals, Home Care and Doctor’s Offices.

(Extracted from “Electrocardiogram (ECG) Susceptibility to Interference from Popular Electronic Devices”, Matthew Pinchuk Meland and Anthony Dedes, IEEE EMC Society Newsletter, Winter 2007 (they mean Winter 2006!), Issue 212, pages 64-66,

423. Interference causes poisoning of patient

European medical device regulations state mandatory limits at a distance of 10m, these measurements are performed in far field conditions. However, in many medical scenarios it is difficult to avoid the presence of EMI sources too close to sensitive equipment, and this situation is not covered by the standards. 

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Regarding the EMI that are not coming from medical devices, a typical situation is the use of a mobile phone inside medical facilities. There are several reports about medical problems attributed to the use of a mobile phone near a medical device: Hann in [4] reports the poisoning of a patient by an overdose of epinephrine prompted by the malfunction of an infusion pump due to a cellular phone call received by a family member. 

[4] In-Hei Hahn, David Schnadower, Richard J Dakin and Lewis S. Nelson “Cellular phone interference as a cause of acute epinephrine poisoning” Annals of Emergency Medicine, Volume 46, no. 3: September 2005. pp 298-299.

(Extracts from “Medical Equipment Immunity Assessment by Time Domain Analysis”, Mireya Fernández-Chimeno, Miguel Ángel García-González and Ferran Silva, 2007 IEEE International Symposium on Electromagnetic Compatibility, 8-13 July 2007, Honolulu, Hawaii, ISBN: 1-4244‑1350-8, IEEE EMC Society, 

The regular “Banana Skins” column was published in the EMC Journal, starting in January 1998. Alan E. Hutley, a prominent member of the electronics community, distinguished publisher of the EMC Journal, founder of the EMCIA EMC Industry Association and the EMCUK Exhibition & Conference, has graciously given his permission for In Compliance to republish this reader-favorite column. The Banana Skin columns were compiled by Keith Armstrong, of Cherry Clough Consultants Ltd, from items he found in various publications, and anecdotes and links sent in by the many fans of the column. All of the EMC Journal columns are available at:, indexed both by application and type of EM disturbance, and new ones have recently begun being added. Keith has also given his permission for these stories to be shared through In Compliance as a service to the worldwide EMC community. We are proud to carry on the tradition of sharing Banana Skins for the purpose of promoting education for EMI/EMC engineers.

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