Metal detectors have caused a great deal of concern for those who have pacemakers, and understandably so. The pacemaker works by sending electric impulses to the heart in order to obtain a steady, measured beat. The Security detector emits an electro-magnetic field that could potentially cause interruptions in a pacemaker’s rhythm, or that’s the concern, anyway. Kira was a young woman who had her life changed by her cardiologist. Her dizzy spells were gone, and she no longer had to live life from the spectator seat. She walked into her office building, and was greeted with new and improved security. She balked at the sight of the security wand and instinctively placed her hand over her heart. She feared the effects the MD (metal detector) would have on the little piece of metal that was now so vital to her way of life.
The fear of metal detectors interfering with pacemakers is not entirely unfounded. In 1998, the FDA communicated with medical professionals regarding the problems metal detectors were causing some patients. Within the report, which you can view here, they stated, “The operation of certain medical devices, including pacemakers… may be affected by the electromagnetic fields produced by anti-theft systems and metal detectors.” According to their statement, there were 18 incidences reported in which a pacemaker was affected by either an Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS) system or a MD. These incidences occurred in the 10-year period between 1988 and 1998. The FDA also informed these medical professionals that they were working with the manufacturers to eliminate the problem.
Unfortunately, there are many inaccurate sources on the internet. The internet has hosts of pages that have not been updated since the FDA issued their statement, and these pages proclaim warnings and spread fear. No wonder people are still concerned! Yet times have changed, and apparently, the FDA succeeded to some degree in eliminating the threat metal scanners pose for pacemakers.
The American Heart Association has a page designated to the do’s and do not’s for those with pacemakers. The Association tells the public that, in general, metal detectors are safe. They assure those with pacemakers that “interactions with MD are unlikely to cause clinically significant symptoms in most patients.” The author goes on to suggest that if a metal detector wand is being used, “tell the security personnel that you have a pacemaker. Ask them not to hold the metal detector near the device any longer than is absolutely necessary.” The American Heart Association last updated this page in 2012, and is a highly trusted source.
People like Kira can live in confidence, assured that their pacemaker and more importantly, their way of life are safe from the effects of metal detectors. These no longer pose any significant threat to those who once had a cause to fear them. Pacemakers and metal detector wands can finally co-exist peacefully in a world where security is essential.