Modern Wireless Telecommunication Technologies and Their Electromagnetic Compatibility with Life-Supporting Equipment
Hospitals rely on pagers and ordinary telephones to reach staff members in emergency situations. New telecommunication technologies such as General Packet Radio Service (GPRS), the third generation mobile phone system Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS), and Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) might be able to replace hospital pagers if they are electromagnetically compatible with medical devices. In this study, we sought to determine if GPRS, UMTS (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access-Frequency Division Duplex [WCDMA FDD]), and WLAN (IEEE 802.11b) transmitted signals interfere with life-supporting equipment in the intensive care and operating room environment. According to United States standard, ANSI C63.18–1997, laboratory tests were performed on 76 medical devices. In addition, clinical tests during 11 operations and 100 h of intensive care were performed. UMTS and WLAN signals caused little interference. Devices using these technologies can be used safely in critical care areas and during operations, but direct contact between medical devices and wireless communication devices ought to be avoided. In the case of GPRS, at a distance of 50 cm, it caused an older infusion pump to alarm and stop infusing; the pump had to be reset. Also, 10 cases of interference with device displays occurred. GPRS can be used safely at a distance of 1 m. Terminals/cellular phones using these technologies should be allowed without restriction in public areas because the risk of interference is minimal.