Pacemakers are small electrical devices that regulate electrical activity in the heart. Anything that produces a strong electromagnetic field can interfere with a pacemaker.
The British Heart Foundation recommends that people with a pacemaker should get no closer than 60 cms (2 ft) from an induction hob.
According to Dr. Mike Knapton, assistant medical director of the British heart foundation, induction cooktops generate electromagnetic field so keep that 2 ft distance. When in doubt, check the written information given to you when your pacemaker was inserted.
According to him, people with pacemakers should also keep 6 inches distance from appliances that contain magnet namely hand-held hair dryers, shavers with an electrical cord, large stereo speakers, electric toothbrushes and base chargers of ultrasonic toothbrushes.
Metal detectors, high tension wires, and microwave ovens, MRI Scans can disrupt the electrical signaling of the pacemaker. Magnetic mattresses and pillows are a complete no-no for people with pacemakers.
Recent advances in modern technology over the past 50 years have resulted in an increase in the number of patients who are living a good life on pacemakers. There are however electric and magnetic fields in the environment that can potentially interact with these devices.
Relationship between Induction cooktop and pacemakers
To understand how the induction cooktop can affect the pacemakers we need to understand the concept of induction and pacemaker individually first.
Understanding the Induction
Induction cooktops work on the principle of electromagnetism. Induction is actually a shortened way of saying electromagnetic induction. It means generating electricity using magnetism.
When a fluctuating electric current flows down a wire, it creates an invisible pattern of magnetism all around it. Off the topic, the opposite stands true as well.
A rotating coil of wire through a magnetic field makes an electric current flow through it. That concept is used in the electricity generator.
Coming back to induction, an alternating current is passed to the copper coil inside the cooktop. It results in the generation of the constantly changing magnetic field. It does not generate heat directly. These magnetic fields penetrate the base of the ferromagnetic cookware and produce an electric current.
This current is not the same as the current which flows through a wire carrying energy in a straight line. It is a whirling, swirling electric current with lots of energy and no place to go. It is called eddy currents.
These are responsible for giving heat energy and cooking food. The rest of the cooktop remains cool to touch.
A pacemaker is a small device that is placed in the chest or abdomen to help control abnormal heart rhythms. It is a small battery-powered box with electronic circuitry and leads and sensors which detect a biological function and deliver a stimulus.
This device uses electrical pulses to prompt the heart to beat at a normal rate.
Pacemakers are used to treat arrhythmias. Arrhythmias are problems with the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat. During an arrhythmia, the heart can beat too fast, too slow or with an irregular rhythm.
Faulty electrical signaling in the heart causes arrhythmias. Pacemakers use low energy electrical pulses to overcome this.
Effect of Induction on Pacemakers
The signals of the heart, as we know, are detected by the pacemaker. External electric and magnetic fields can induce signals on these sensing leads that prevent the device from working properly.
Pacemakers programmed to unipolar configurations can cause danger to their users when in contact with EMF.
According to an Oxford academic article, the malfunctions observed in unipolar pacemakers were inappropriate atrial and ventricular sensing. To put it simply, the pacemaker interpreted external signals as intrinsic heartbeats.
It led them to conclude that pacemakers which had bipolar configurations were not affected much. However unipolar configurations pacemaker dependent patients had interference in their pacemakers.
Close proximity and prolonged exposure can disrupt the electrical signals of the pacemaker.
According to research published in the national center for biotechnology information, patients are at risk if the pacemaker is implanted in the left side and has a unipolar configuration. They are at risk if they stand too close to the induction and for a long duration.
If the pot/pan is not placed centrally covering the heating element but eccentrically placed, then also the risk increases.
Under these four conditions, the patient is potentially endangered if he or she is not pacemaker dependant, because, interference by induction cooktops with amplitude-modulated fields starts asynchronous pacing that may compete with the underlying rhythm.
Possible solutions when you have a pacemaker
The most likely response to interference is switching to an asynchronous interference mode.
According to a book named Europace, the pacemaker interference can be either due to the voltages induced by the induction or indirectly by the current leakage.
While designing induction cooktops, it would be helpful if the manufacturers reduced the maximum allowed eccentricity. This is because the more tolerant of eccentricity the cooktop is, the higher will be the voltages that can be induced.
Pacemaker patients should maintain distance from the induction cooktop. They should take care to position pots on induction cooktops concentrically on the induction coil. This will prevent leakage current which can pass through the body when the cookware is touched for long periods of time.
Patients with unipolar sensing pulse generators should not touch pots on induction cooktops for long periods of time nor use metal utensils. Close and prolonged exposures are a no-no, sir.
Finally, if you are shopping for a new cooktop, it might be easier to pick one that is not an induction cooktop.
Read the pacemakers information guide given to you after placement of the implant. They often provide information on electromagnetic interference. Different manufacturers literature specify various things to avoid and those to use with precaution.
When we know that the induction process takes place in the cooktop, isn’t it better to avoid it anyway notwithstanding whether it the pacemaker has a unipolar or bipolar configuration?
That is my advice to all those who have pacemakers and love cooking. Since you can’t spend a lot of time near it or too close to it, there are many other different options available in the market for you to choose from. Stay away from the EMF as a precautionary measure and you will be fine!
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