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31-10-2011 | Cardiology | Article

Hand-held metal detectors may be safe for patients with cardiac rhythm devices


Free abstract

MedWire News: European researchers have found new data that suggest hand-held metal detectors at airports can be safely used to screen patients with implanted cardiac rhythm devices.

Although the study showed that hand-held metal detectors do not affect the function of pacemakers or implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs), further confirmation is required, say Clemens Jilek (Deutsches Herzzentrum München, Germany) and co-authors in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

They conducted a cross-sectional analysis of 388 patients with cardiac rhythm devices (209 pacemakers, 179 ICDs), who presented for routine follow-up between September 2009 and December 2010.

After checking that each device was functioning normally, the researchers swiped an activated hand-held metal detector, with a maximal electromagnetic flux density of 6.3 µT, on each patient's skin over the cardiac rhythm device for at least 30 seconds. This is much longer than the time required for normal security screening, the researchers note.

Electrocardiography analysis demonstrated that screening with the hand-held metal detector resulted in no abnormalities to cardiac rhythm device malfunction including pacing inhibition, loss of capture, inappropriate mode switch, ventricular oversensing, and spontaneous reprogramming, in any of the patients.

Nevertheless, say the authors, their negative findings should not be considered definitive, as the study used a convenience sample of patients and devices and the number of each model device tested was small.

In addition, they point out that the metal detectors in the study were used in examination rooms and not in an airport, where there are many security screening procedures emitting electromagnetic radiation.

"Our results suggest that using hand-held metal detectors for security screening in patients with pacemakers and ICDs is probably safe, but these findings require confirmation," Jilek et al conclude.

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By Piriya Mahendra

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