If you’ve had Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) you’ll want to add EMI on your Things to Remember list to be mindful of the receptivity of the electrical gadgets in your body! EMI (electromagnetic interference) is electrical or magnetic energy from another electronic device that is strong enough to interfere with or disrupt the operation of another device such as your DBS gear.
The Medtronic techs tell us that EMI could turn the DBS neurostimulator on/off or interfere with it. The general rule is that personal experience will tell you if an electromagnetic experience occurs, especially if you wave the device directly over your stimulator in your chest. If the stimulator shuts off, then you can check it and turn it back on with your patient programmer. Even if the worst outcome is that your transmitter turns off or changes the settings, you don’t want to take a chance!
A good resource for reading about electromagnetic interference is Medtronic® Deep Brain Stimulation Therapy, Patient Therapy Guide I checked up on EMI after my daughter and I went to the phone store to upgrade our iPhones. The new iPhone came with a free Fitbit, a wireless-enabled wearable technology device that measures data such as the number of steps walked, quality of sleep, steps climbed, and other personal metrics.
I had recently noticed a warning on my Weight Watcher’s scale discouraging persons with electrical devices such as pacemakers to avoid using them because of EMI, so it was on my mind. Heart pacemaker warnings are often on devices because the results might be life/death threatening if there is interference or if they go off.
I decided to be on the safe side in our phone deal, so I gave the Fitbit to my daughter (she’s on the right with her friend in the photo, and she’s wearing her new purple Fitbit.) When I got home I called my Medtronic advisor and also Metronic Patient Services to answer my questions. There’s an excellent EMI lookup table in the Therapy Guide that divides potential for interference from EMI in electronics into three groups: safe, possible and probable.
Things you might not have even considered are included in the EMI table such as electrolysis (possible), salon hair dryers (possible), dental drills and ultrasonic probes to clean teeth (possible, although fluoroscopy and x-ray are ok), ham radio antennas (probable), and sewing machines (safe). Of course, check in with security personnel at airport security gates and request a hand search. Don’t wear magnetic jewelry and stay away from diathermy (deep heat treatment) and certain MRI procedures. Some useful tips I discovered include:
- Don’t hold your cell phone to your chest (try to keep it 4 inches away from your implanted neurostimulator.)
- Keep computer disk drives away from your implanted neurostimulator.
- Do not lean against the magnetic strip that holds the door closed on your freezer, refrigerator.
- Do not lift or carry stereo speakers and radios for the home or car close to or touching the part of your body where the neurostimulator is located.
- Keep your implanted neurostimulator away from the stove burners while the burners are turned on.
If you ever have questions about EMI, call Medtronic patient services 800-510-6735 and ask to speak to them or a tech and they can see if there have been any reports of issues or any specific testing or questions about your subject. They are very informative and helpful. The Medtronic representatives thought that it would probably be fine for me to wear a Fitbit. My daughter loves her new Fitbit so the next time I need to replace an iPhone I just may have to pick one up for myself!
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