ICD and Amateur Radio distance

  • by AB55
  • 2019-02-18 11:40:36
  • ICDs

A member of the family who is 80 is about to have an ICD fitted.

I noticed that the leaflet we have from the hospital mentions HAM/Amateur radio as 'special consideration - maintain 2 feet/60cm from ICD' 

I assume that it means the distance from the antenna and not the radio itself but does anyone know for sure?
He will typically sit pretty close to the radio, probably 1 foot away, but the antenna is half way down the back garden essentially in a tree about 20 metres away from the radio room.

Does anyone here have any experience of this situation?

Many thanks in advance.


Ham radio

by AgentX86 - 2019-02-18 12:56:52

If this is a commercial transmitter, you're almost certainly in the green. If it's a home-brew, well, how good of a designer/engineer are you? ;-)

How many watts? What band? The real issue is strong AC *magnetic* fields that may induce a current in your leads. Remember, the pacemaker is sensing millivolt level signals from your heart. Modern pacemakers and leads are shielded from EM radiation (but nothing is 100%) but not magnetics.

RF Transmission

by Theknotguy - 2019-02-18 15:21:40

I live in a large city that has several TV broadcasting towers.  Back in the days of computer terminals, the towers would emit enough RF to make the screens look like you were showing a video of waves on the seashore.  Quite a lot of RF.  I travel in and through that area quite a lot with no problems to my pacemaker.  

There was an earlier publication from the University of Michigan where they indicated you had to have a transmitter within a couple of inches of the pacemaker before it would bother anything.  Don't know how old the study was nor what kind of transmission.  

Cell phone towers don't bother the pacemaker.  

There is an RF frequency band the newer pacemakers are using for communication via cell phone.  

Based upon the above observations I don't feel a home based HAM/Amateur radio station is going to produce high enough wattage nor the right frequency to bother a pacemaker or ICD.  Most of the time I'd say you would only have to worry about the transmitting antenna but amateur stations can be "dirty" and end up transmitting RF on all sorts of frequencies.  Just depends upon equipment built or used and what kind of shielding you have.   You can always check with you manufacturer about the frequency used for reading pacemakers/ICD's via a cell phone.  Then see if your amateur radio system transmits in that frequency area.  If it doesn't, you shouldn't have to worry.  

I forgot about my pacemaker and jump started my daughter-in-law's card.  Was bending over the running engine and it probably was broadcasting all over the EMF spectrum.  No problems

Back in the day when Radio Shack was still a player in the market in the US, their TRS-80 micro-computer system used to broadcast all over the RF spectrum and the HAM operators were up in arms about it.  You could even take one of their small AM radios, tune it to a specific frequency and have it make all sorts of noises when the computer was running.  There were even some programs out that would use the small radio to make sounds for playing games on the computer.  But I don't feel there was enough RF to bother a pacemaker.  

Finally, we've had this question come up before.  The HAM/Amateur radio operators have always said they'd check it out and advise.  But we've never had one come back and say there were any problems.  So while we don't know, we haven't heard of any specific issues.  

Hope this helps.  


ICD amateur radio

by AB55 - 2019-02-19 10:36:17

Thanks for the replies,  I will certainly follow this up and post findings here in case it helps anyone in the future.  I believe its going to be an ICD and not a pacemaker.

He has two main radios and one of them is definitely this one in the link below (I bought it for him when his old one went pop so I have the link)


I will find out the wattage and bands used.

The ICD device may be fitted this week and then we will know which manufacturer so I can check at that point.

Im hoping all will be OK - he has been told driving is out of the question for minimum 6 months which has caused him a lot of frustration whilst sat in the hospital bed with not much else to think about and if we took his beloved radio away which he uses every single day to speak to friends ... well it would probably finish him off !



ICD amateur radio

by AgentX86 - 2019-02-19 22:49:14

ICDs are pacemakers these days, though the opposite isn't true.  He may not have the pacing functions turned on.

I looked up the radio you pointed to.  It's a fairly high power unit and operates in the 2M and 430MHz bands.  Those are the two that might be worrisome. However, as long as the equipment is in good shape, he shouldn't have any problems.  Make sure he stays away from the antenna when it's transmitting.  If he feels anything strange, he should stop and make sure everything is OK.

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Member Quotes

I have an ICD which is both a pacer/defib. I have no problems with mine and it has saved my life.