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Millimetre wave full body scanners do not interfere with cardiac implantable devices

ESC Congress News 2018 - Munich, Germany

There have been reports in recent years of electromagnetic interference (EMI) from security systems, such as metal detector devices (e.g. walk-through full-body scanners) at airports, which could impact on the functioning of cardiac implantable electronic devices (CIEDs).

Device Therapy
Implantable Cardioverter \ Defibrillator
Device Complications and Lead Extraction

Lennerz-2018-esc-congress-news.jpgInterference could cause the device to malfunction, potentially leading to spontaneous reprogramming of the device, an unprompted switch to a different mode, administration of inappropriate therapy or failure of therapy. Recently the US FDA called the electromagnetic compatibility of metal detectors with CIEDs into question. However, security checkpoints are changing due to the increasing use of millimetre wave body scanners, which can detect both metal and non-metal threats. Currently, people with CIEDs must be informed of the applied millimetre wave body scanner technique and are asked not to undergo a body scanner check.

Yesterday, a late-breaking study presentation by Doctor Carsten Lennerz (German Heart Center Munich, Department of Electrophysiology, Technical University Munich, Germany) reported that concerns over EMI with an innovative millimetre wave body scanner were unfounded. Dr. Lennerz says, “We wanted to provide reliable evidence on the safety of security body scanners for people with CIEDs to address patient anxieties and prevent unnecessary restrictions on these patients passing through security checkpoints.”

The investigators recruited 302 patients with CIEDs (pacemakers, implantable cardioverter defibrillators and cardiac resynchronisation therapy devices) who attended their routine follow-up appointment at the German Heart Centre Munich between May 2017 and July 2018. The patients were exposed to the electromagnetic fields generated by a millimetre wave body scanner (R&S QPS, Rohde & Schwarz, Germany) and were subsequently analysed for the presence of any EMI events.

Once regular scans were completed, patients were positioned in close proximity to, and behind, the scanner itself. Based on the presented study the prevalence of EMI events from a millimetre wave body scanner is 0% (0/302) (95% confidence intervals 0–1.2).

The study found no evidence of electromagnetic interference from millimetre wave body scanners impacting the functioning of CIEDs.

Dr. Lennerz suggests that the findings are in line with what would be expected given the frequency used in the scanning device (70–80 GHz), the low penetration depth of millimetre waves in biological tissue and the very short duration of scans (approximately 100 milliseconds). He adds, “Our study suggests there is no need for specific protocols in the use of millimetre wave body scanners, which are widely used at airports and other security checkpoints, for individuals with CIEDs.”

“We believe that, on the basis of this study, no restrictions for the use of millimetre wave scanners on CIED patients are necessary.”

He thinks that these results could also help to avoid any stigma that individuals with CIEDs may be subjected to while undergoing security checks at airports or elsewhere.


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Notes to editor

About the European Society of Cardiology

The European Society of Cardiology brings together healthcare professionals from more than 150 countries, working to advance cardiovascular medicine and help people lead longer, healthier lives.

About ESC Congress 2018

ESC Congress is the world’s largest and most influential cardiovascular event contributing to global awareness of the latest clinical trials and breakthrough discoveries. ESC Congress 2018 takes place 25 to 29 August at the Messe München in Munich, Germany. Explore the scientific programme