The aim of this study was to find out whether digital and analogue cellular 'phones affect patients with pacemakers. The study comprised continuous ECG monitoring of 200 pacemaker patients. During the monitoring certain conditions caused by interference created by the telephone were looked for: temporary or prolonged pacemaker inhibition; a shift to asynchronous mode caused by electromagnetic interference; an increase in ventricular pacing in dual chamber pacemakers, up to the programmed upper rate. The Global System for Mobile Communications system interfered with pacing 97 times in 43 patients (21.5%). During tests on Total Access of Communication System telephones, there were 60 cases of pacing interference in 35 patients (17.5%). There were 131 interference episodes during ringing vs 26 during the on/off phase; (P < 0.0001); 106 at maximum sensitivity level vs 51 at the 'base' value; P < 0.0001). Prolonged pacing inhibition (> 4 s) was seen at the pacemaker 'base' sensing value in six patients using the Global system but in only one patient using Total Access.
Conclusion: Cellular 'phones may be dangerous for pacemaker patients. However, they can be used safely if patients do not carry the 'phone close to the pacemaker, which is the only place where high risk interference has been observed.