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Old 19-11-2016, 18:00   #1
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Pacemaker

I am an experienced coastal sailor. I sold my last boat and went back to work to replenish the sailing kitty. I am 67. I would like to buy another boat and spend a couple more winters in the tropics. However, I recently had to have a pacemaker installed. There are numerous warnings about what you should and should not do to keep your pacemaker operating correctly. I wondered if the electronic currents flying around inside and outside a sailboat (think rotting zincs) could impact my pacemaker. Any cardiologists in the house?

Thanks in advance,
RM
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Old 19-11-2016, 19:50   #2
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Re: Pacemaker

Not a cariologist, but I have some grasp of electronics.

The design of pacemakers has been updated periodically to deal with sources of outside interference as they have become apparent. Generally they will be shielded against disorganized radio frequency (RF) of moderate power and organized RF of indeterminate power. Magnetic fields can also be a source of problems. Electrical, radio radiation and magnetic fields are a fact of life in the modern world and most of the run of the mill stuff you would encounter in your home has been accounted for in the current pacemaker designs. Most of the stuff on a boat is similar to what is in you house.

The two potential problem sources you might encounter on a boat that you likely wouldn't in your home are radio transmitters with significant power and welders.

An observation I read by an EMT is that they have no concern using their handheld and vehicle mounted radios when transporting patients. To me this strongly supports the position that handheld marine VHFs shouldn't be a problem.

SSB or Ham might be another thing. The antenna is further away but radiates a lot more power. If the antenna is the backstay then it will be radiating at your level within 20' of where you sit to operate the radio. Here is a related link:
https://www.arrl.org/files/file/Tech.../pdf/jul94.pdf

I don't see there being any issues with magnetic fields on a boat unless you lean against the alternator or a generator in operation.

Welding on-board or at a shop I would stay away from the welding equipement in operation, they have really big surges of current which produces associated magnetic fields.

Nearby lightning strikes will be a problem in all 3 catagories, but they are a risk wherever you go, on a boat or otherwise.

I can't think of anything else on a boat that would produce a significant electrical, RF or magnetic surge. There is probably something I haven't thought of.
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Old 19-11-2016, 19:58   #3
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Re: Pacemaker

I'm not a cardiologists but I've had my pacemaker for over four years and I did allot of googling before I bought my boat three years ago. I have not had any problems with my pacemaker with interference but I did have a lead go bad and had it replaced just 30 days ago. Since leads normally last over 15 years (95%) I assume there is some body motion that I do that cause the failure, I am not sure what it is but I don't think it involves the boat. But this is something to keep in mind.


Now back to your concern - RADAR, VHF antennas, alternators and any large electric motors (windlass) are the things to consider on a boat since it is Electromagnetic Interference that can cause a problem. If I was you I would trust your Pacemaker's manufacturer over anything else you read on the web. I have a Boston Scientific pacemaker and starting on page 25 of this PDF they describe the things to watch out for and the minimum distance to keep your pacemaker from those things.


http://www.bostonscientific.com/cont...dy_PH_UK_S.pdf


For boat RADAR's I found the below quote from this web page: pacemakers and a small boat radar system


"I am a cardiologist here in wilmington, so hopefully I can help a little. The short answer is your pacemaker will probably be just fine with your radar. the longer answer is:
the potential problem with radar and your pacemaker is EMI or electromagnetic inteference, in which external signals (like radar or cell phone signals) interfere with your pacemaker and could prevent it from functioning properly or at all. This is extremely rare. To get you a definitive answer, I called and spoke with the engineers at Medtronic, which is one of the major pacemaker manufacturers (St Jude and Boston Scientific are two of the others, and they likely have looked at this problem as well, though I didn't call them). Medtronic's official research/statement is that for radar on small boats there is "low risk" of interference and that to eliminate any risk from radar transmitting 1-4 kilowatts (I don't have radar on my inshore boat, so I don't know if that is a standard output or not), you should ensure that the radar antenna/dome should be at least 3 feet above your head. The location of the radar console itself doesn't matter at all. If you are closer than three feet to the dome, their official stance is that there is "potential" for EMI, though I suspect this is still rare"
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Old 19-11-2016, 20:36   #4
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Re: Pacemaker

I had my first cardiac re synchronization therapy device (read pacemaker defibrillator ) implanted about 18 months ago. Mine is important to me as I am " pacemaker dependent" , I believe that without it, I don't have a rythum at all. Not everyone is like this, check with your cardiologist. I have a remote reporting device that periodically sends status reports to my doctors at the VA. Of course that unit requires 120 vac power and a cell service be available. Needless to say, I left it home.

I was away for several months and when I returned home, I was contacted by my cardio group to come in for an appointment two days later. My device is on a recall and since I am dependent on it once blood labs were done it was replaced with a new unit.

The moral of the story, if you are going to be out of touch, your device will be out of touch. There is of course an elevated risk in being away from the hospital around the corner.

I am getting ready to set off again after the holidays. You need to make your own risk / benefit decision after getting some info from your doctors .
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Old 20-11-2016, 03:54   #5
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Re: Pacemaker

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, MikeC.
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Old 20-11-2016, 06:55   #6
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Re: Pacemaker

I also am not a Cardiologist and am on my third defibrillator/pacemaker (first one was recalled) since 2003. I have spent 1009 days on our Hunter 356 with radar, sonar, VHF, on board wifi through Verizon, a generator, Globalstar sat phone - pretty much all but HF radio. I have never experienced any issues with mine. We spent 6 months, 50% aboard on a cruise and 22 days our radar was mounted low and on the bow attached to a cradle when our mast was down. I used to send in data 3 times a year but now have a wireless unit that auto reports since May of 2015.
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Old 31-12-2016, 21:24   #7
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Re: Pacemaker

Not a Doctor but never had a problem sailing with my Pacemaker, just saying..
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Old 31-12-2016, 22:37   #8
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Re: Pacemaker

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Not a Doctor but never had a problem sailing with my Pacemaker, just saying..
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Old 31-12-2016, 22:38   #9
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Re: Pacemaker

Too funny! Thanks for the input!
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