Electromagnetic Interference

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ICD and Pacemaker Interference: Dealing With EMI

When you live with an implanted device, it is important to be aware of electromagnetic interference, or EMI. EMI happens when the electromagnetic field generated by certain household objects, pieces of heavy equipment and medical equipment/procedures interferes with the way an implantable device works.

EMI can potentially:

  • Disrupt the function of a pacemaker
  • Cause an ICD to falsely sense an irregular heart rhythm, sending a shock that is not needed

Ask your doctor about the best way to avoid EMI, and for answers to any questions you may have about how specific equipment can affect your device. 

Medical procedures to avoid

Always inform hospital, clinic and dental staff that you have a pacemaker or ICD. The following procedures produce EMI and are not considered safe for people with implantable devices:

  • Microwave diatherm
  • MRI/MRA scans for people with certain pacemakers

Magnetic Resonance (MR) Conditional pacemakers

MRI technology is used to visualize soft tissue within the body. MRI scans are considered the imaging modality that offers the most information to medical professionals when making patient diagnosis. MRI is often the preferred imaging choice when diagnosing stroke, cancer, heart-related issues, injuries and many other medical conditions because of the very detailed images it provides, combined with the low risk of radiation.

Some pacemakers are called “MR Conditional,” “MRI Conditional” or “MRI ready.” This means that they are designed to allow you to safely undergo an MRI scan under certain conditions, due to safeguards in the system’s design that protect it from the risks of EMI. By having a pacemaker implanted that allows MRI scans, you will have access to what many physicians consider their preferred diagnostic tool.

  • If your pacemaker is MR Conditional, your doctor will have informed you, and you should carry a special identification card.
  • If you have a St. Jude Medical™ MR Conditional pacemaker, download your MRI patient ID card.

Read more about having a St. Jude Medical MR Conditional pacemaker.

Medical procedures to consult your doctor about

Ask your doctor before undergoing:

  • Acupuncture with electrical stimulus
  • Cardioversion
  • Electrocautery
  • Electroconvulsive therapy
  • Electrolysis
  • Endoscopic procedures: colonoscopy/gastroscopy
  • Hyperbaric therapy
  • Iontophoresis
  • Interferential current therapy
  • Laser/lasik eye surgery
  • Lithotripsy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Radiofrequency ablation
  • Ultrasound, therapeutic
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (tens)
  • Transurethral prostate therapy

Medical procedures with no known risk

  • Medical procedures that you can safely have if you have a pacemaker or an implantable cardioverter defibrillator include:
  • Acupuncture with no electrical stimulus
  • Bone density scan
  • CT scan
  • Dental drills and ultrasonic scalers
  • Electrocardiogram
  • External counter pulsation
  • Fluoroscopy
  • Mammography (position emission tomography(PET))
  • Ultrasound, diagnostic
  • X-ray, diagnostic

Industrial equipment 

Some industrial equipment can produce EMI that interferes with pacemakers. These include:

  • Arc welders
  • Induction furnaces
  • Very large or defective electric motors
  • Very large internal combustion engines with poorly shielded ignition systems

Ask your doctor before working with or near these machines.

Home and office technology to avoid:

  • Magnetic mattresses or chairs
  • Electrical equipment in poor condition
  • Electrical equipment that is improperly grounded

Home and office technology with no known risks

These items carry no known risk to implantable devices. Use caution with items marked with an asterisk.



  • AM/FM radios
  • Bingo game magnetic wands
  • CB and Ham radio
  • CD/DVD players
  • Cell phones*
  • Copy machines
  • Cordless phones*
  • Hand-held massagers*
  • Hearing aids
  • Electric blankets
  • Electric toothbrushes
  • Electric razors*
  • Electric invisible fences
  • Fax machines
  • Global positioning system (GPS)
  • Hair dryer*
  • Heart rate monitors
  • Heating pads
  • iPods and MP3 players
  • Laser tag games
  • Pagers
  • Patient alert devices
  • Laptop/desktop computers
  • Personal digital assistants
  • Printers
  • Remote controls - TV, garage door, stereo, camera/ video equipment
  • Scuba Diving (up to 200 feet)
  • Slot machines
  • Stereo speakers*
  • Tanning beds
  • TVs and VCRs
  • Video games
  • Air purifiers
  • Battery-powered cordless power tools
  • Blenders
  • Clothes dryers
  • Convection ovens
  • Corded drills and power tools**
  • Electric can openers
  • Electric knives
  • Electric ovens and stoves
  • Food processors
  • Gas ovens and stoves
  • Gas-powered tools**
  • Hot tubs/whirlpool baths
  • Lawn mowers**
  • Laser level
  • Leaf blowers
  • Microwave ovens
  • Portable space heaters  
  • Snow blowers
  • Soldering irons
  • Stud finders
  • Vacuum cleaners
  • Washing machines
* Do not place directly over device ** Keep 12 inches from device