Radio Interference in Medical Equipment

Are Medical Devices Safe From Radio Interference?

Medical devices and equipment are often associated with and powered and controlled by electronics. Medical instruments are constructed from the same electronic chips and circuits that power our TV sets, stereo systems, and cell phones.

Since we all have observed that some EMI electrical interference will effect our normal electronics devices, it might be supposed that we will see this sort of EMI interference in the medical equipment in our homes, hospitals, clinics and other medical settings.

This indeed is the case. Reports have noted that RFI,  radio frequency interference, has shown up in all sorts of  medical devices. The results can range from being  just annoying, hampering operations, or potentially lethal to providers or patients,  depending upon the circumstances and equipment involved.

There is an intentional  standard called the 1993 IEC 60601-1-2. It sets out a standard of three volts/meter for emissions in the 26-1000 Megahertz range.   That means that sensitive life sustaining instruments should be shielded and able to operate safely in fields up to this value.  For devices that are deemed to be “non-life supporting” , EMI testing is only required at three specific frequencies, 27.12, 40.68 and 915.0 Megahertz.

Medical instrument providers are supposed to protect their medical equipment from all harmful EMI  that will possibly be present and affect the equipment they manufacture. From personal experience we observe, on many occasions, that interference occurs.  This interference comes from  cell phones and pagers used by almost all medical personnel and responders. It emanates from everyday sources such as smart-meters, cell towers, Wi-Fi routers, as well as public safety transmitters and, not last but least, other medical equipment. Even poorly shielded microwave ovens can emit troublesome radiation.

Protecting Medical Devices from EMI Interference

Medical device manufacturers can shield and protect most of theses devices if they design the equipment to reduce or eliminate EMI radiation in the beginning.

With the advent of the “Internet of Things”, electronic security alarms, radar sensors, video cameras, home & professional  internet routers,  or personal medical devices worn on wrist bands and attached to cellular phones, it can be expected that interference with medical devices will be a continuing problem.  Electromagnetic interference should be addressed both in the design, manufacture and the use of these devices in the medical setting.

Finding Radio Interference in Medical Equipment within  medical facilities can and should be a priority.  It can be easily tested with the use of a professional Electric Field Strength Meter, which can pinpoint and quantify the strength of localized EMI fields and determine if they are within  local and international limits.

If you have any concerns, questions or comments, please either leave me a message or comment below. I will try to answer any of your questions or concerns.


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