Monday, September 10, 2007

Cell Phones Should Be Kept Away From Hospital Beds

My father was hospitalized for about a week in December last year. While in hospital he had his cell phone with him. The policy of the General Hospital in Miri was that no cell phone should be charged using any of the electrical outlets by the hospital beds. My father ignored the "no charging" advice! :-) His reason- How do you expect me to receive calls from my family or make calls to them if my phone's battery is dead?!

Anyway the good thing about his stay at that particular ward in the hospital was that none of the patients there was hooked up to any machines that might be affected by possible interferences emitted by the cell phones.

There are good reasons not to have cell phones by hospital beds.

Science Daily — Cell phones should come no closer than one meter to hospital beds and equipment, according Dutch research published in the online open access journal, Critical Care. Scientists demonstrated that incidents of electromagnetic interference (EMI) from second and third generation mobile phones occurred even at distance of three meters.

In this particular study, the research team examined the effects of General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) and Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) signals on critical care equipment such as ventilators and pacemakers. Almost 50 EMI incidents were recorded; 75% were significant or hazardous. Hazardous incidents varied from a total switch off and restart of mechanical ventilator and complete stops without alarms in syringe pumps to incorrect pulsing by an external pacemaker.

The second generation (2.5G) GPRS signal caused the highest number of EMI incidents at over 60% whereas the third generation (3G) UMTS signal was responsible for just 13%. EMI incidents also occurred a greater distance with GPRS with a hazardous incident even at three meters.

While first generation mobile phones are used mainly for voice transmission, 2.5G and 3G phones enable internet access, sending and receiving data. They entered the market, however, with little proof regarding their safe use in the medical environment.

Dr Erik van Lieshout, lead researcher from the Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, said; "Our work has real implications for present hospital restrictions of mobile phone use in patient areas."

"It is unlikely that mobile phone induced EMI in hospitals will be eradicated in the near future so the one meter rule currently in place should continue, as it is relatively safe," commented Dr van Lieshout.

Article: "Interference by new generations mobile phones on critical care medical equipment," Erik Jan van Lieshout, Sabine N van der Veer, Reinout Hensbroek, Johanna C Korevaar, Margreeth B Vroom and Marcus J Schultz, Critical Care (in press)


  1. Hello Puteri, regret to hear about your father. How is he now? Here's hoping he is now in the best of health and doing fine.
    Wow! You sure know your stuff re h/phones. Me? I don't even own one. No girlfriends to chat, ha ha. Just kidding. I'm not a phone talker. My wife too.
    Puteri, you mentioned your dad in Miri, and I noticed you and Pat chatting away in a 'strange' language, neither Malay nor Mongolian, not sure what it maths adding 2+3=7, you from Sarawak too, right? Of course now in Uncle Bush country.
    No wonder I've been scratching my head when kaypoh peeping at your chats with Pat and few others, couldn't make head or tails of your 'chats', ha ha.
    You keep well, Puteri and thank you for your kind thoughts over at my longhouse. UL.

  2. Hi U.Lee! :-) Yes, I am from Sarawak and the language Pat and I chatted in is Iban. I have a blog written totally in Iban, err, with a little bit of English thrown in.

    My father is doing much better now. He has diabetes and last year, his blood sugar went sky high and he had to be hospitalized. He thought he was at death's door then because that was the 3rd time he had to be hospitalized because of his diabetes. I was back in Miri for 3 months last year with my kids.

    How come you and your wife don't own a cell phone? Ahh, no need lah, since you two are always together and most of the time you wait for her in your car if she has to get something from, say, the grocery store. My hubby and I each have a phone and we don't get too many calls from other people on our phones either! Useful when we go shopping, we call each other up and meet at a certain location when we are done. ;-)


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