Electromagnetic Interference (EMI)

  • Mike Hardage
  • Philip D. Henry
Part of the Developments in Cardiovascular Medicine book series (DICM, volume 244)


Electric and magnetic signals originating outside of a defibrillator may affect its operation, a phenomenon known as electromagnetic interference (EMI). EMI usually refers to interference from environmental electromagnetic instrumentation and should be distinguished from other sources of electromagnetic noise causing ICD malfunction (Table 1). Signals most likely to penetrate and affect pacemakers and ICDs are electromagnetic waves or signals at a frequency or repeat rate falling within the radiofrequency (RF) spectrum (Table 2). EMI in daily life is therefore usually a radiofrequency interference (RFI). Radiofrequency interference tends to occur when signals have carrier frequencies or pulse repetition rates falling in the physiologic range and when the source of emission is very close to the implanted generator. These conditions may for instance occur with cellular (digital) telephones or electronic antitheft surveillance devices (EAS. Although instruments emitting radiofrequency energy have become increasingly abundant in the modern environment, the risk of EMI appears low (1). Special engineering features such as shielding of the circuits in hermetic metal cases, filtering, interference rejection circuits, and avoidance of far field -sensitive “unipolar” electrode systems have succeeded in making pacemakers and ICDs relatively invulnerable to extraneous RF sources (2).

Table 2

Radiofrequency Specturm (300 Hz to 300 GHz)




0.3–3kHz (no. 3,VFa)


radio modulation, electric furnace, welding, EASb

30–300kHz (no. 5,LF)


marine and aeronautical communication, induction heating, power inverters, EAS

0.3–3MHz (no. 6,MF)


AM radio, arc welders, amateur radio, radiofrequency ablation

30–300MHz (no. 7,HF)


citizen band, diathermy, MRIc, EAS

30–300MHz (no. 8,VHF)


police, fire, VHF-TV, FM radio, MRI, air traffic control, welding, diathermy

0.3–30 GHz (no. 9, UHF)


microwave oven (2.45 GHz), UHF-TV, radar, citizen band, fire, police, taxi, radionavigation

3–30 GHz (no. 10, SHF)


radar, satellite communication, anti-intruder alarm, fire, police, taxi

3–300 GHz (no. 11, EHF)


radar satellite communication, microwave relay, amateur radio

a VH, voice frequency (fr.); VLF, very low fr.; LF, low fr.; F, medium fr.; HF, high fr.; MVHF, very high fr.; UHF, ultra high fr.; SHF, super high fr.; EHF, extremely high fr. Bands 9-11 (300 MHz-300 GHzlwavelengths 10 cm to I mm) are known as microwaves.

b EAS: Electronic Antitheft (Article) Surveillance devices operate at variable frequencies.

c MRI: magnetic resonance imaging


Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator None None Electromagnetic Interference Transcutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation Rate Fall 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mike Hardage
    • 1
  • Philip D. Henry
    • 1
  1. 1.California and Texas Arrhythmia InstituteSt. Jude Medical, SunnivaleHoustonUSA

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