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  1. Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC)

FDA/CDRH Recommendations for EMC/EMI in Healthcare Facilities

CDRH receives many inquires from healthcare organizations, medical device manufacturers, clinicians, and the public seeking information about experiences with and prevention of electromagnetic interference (EMI) with medical devices. Of particular interest is the safe use of cellular and wireless communications equipment in the vicinity of medical devices. The following information is intended to help minimize the risks associated with medical device EMI and promote electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) in healthcare facilities.

CDRH EMC/EMI recommendations for healthcare facilities are as follows:

  • Make use of available resources such as EMC professionals and publications and Internet web pages on the subject of medical device EMC;
  • Assess the electromagnetic environment of the facility (e.g., identify radio transmitters in around the facility) and identify areas where critical medical devices are used (e.g., ER, ICU, CCU, NICU);
  • Manage the electromagnetic environment, RF transmitters and all electrical and electronic equipment, including medical devices, to reduce the risk of medical device EMI and achieve EMC;
  • Coordinate the purchase, installation, service, and management of all electrical and electronic equipment used in the facility to achieve EMC;
  • Educate healthcare facility staff, contractors, visitors, and patients about EMC and EMI and how they can recognize medical device EMI and help minimize EMI risks;
  • Establish and implement written policies and procedures that document the intentions and methods of the healthcare institution for reducing the risk of medical device EMI and achieving EMC;
  • Report EMI problems to the FDA MedWatch program and communicate EMI/EMC experiences to colleagues in open forums such as medical/technical publications and conferences.

A comprehensive guidance document for EMC in healthcare facilities was developed, with CDRH participation, by the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI):

AAMI Technical Information Report (TIR) 18:2010, Guidance on Electromagnetic Compatibility of Medical Devices in healthcare facilities.

Another important information resource for EMC assessment and management in healthcare facilities was developed by American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Accredited Committee C63 (EMC), also with CDRH participation:

IEEE/ANSI C63.18-2004 1997, Recommended practice for an on-site, ad hoc test method for estimating radiated electromagnetic immunity of medical devices to specific radio-frequency transmitters. New York: ANSI, 1997. American National Standard Recommended Practice for an On-Site, Ad Hoc Test Method for Estimating Electromagnetic Immunity of Medical Devices to Radiated Radio-Frequency (RF) Emissions from RF Transmitters.

Other Resources

AAMI TIR 18 Summary Recommendations

  • Because of their responsibility for the safe functioning of patient care equipment, clinical/biomedical engineers should be the focal point for EMC, EMI mitigation, and EMC/EMI education/training within the health care organization.
  • Purchase, installation, service, and management of all equipment (medical, communications, building systems, and information technology) used in the facility should be coordinated to assure EMC. Clinical/biomedical engineering, facility management, information systems, materials management, and risk management personnel should all be aware of the possibility for equipment interactions and the need for coordination.
  • EMC/EMI should become a permanent responsibility of the health care organization's Safety Committee.
  • Staff, visitors, and patients, including home-care patients, should be educated regarding the nature of EMI and how they can recognize and help prevent it.
  • EMC should be considered in the site selection, design, construction, and layout of health care facilities.
  • Clinical/biomedical engineers should work with facility management, telecommunications, information systems, materials management, and risk management personnel to manage the electromagnetic environment of the health care facility.
  • The institution's administration or its designate, e.g., the Safety Committee, should promulgate policies and procedures that clearly set forth the intentions of the institution regarding management to achieve EMC including, among other things, the designation of areas of the facility where the use of common hand-held RF transmitters (e.g., cellular and PCS telephones, two-way radios) by staff, visitors, and/or patients is to be managed or restricted.
  • Ad hoc radiated RF immunity testing should be considered when EMI is suspected, when RF transmitters are likely to operate in proximity to critical care medical devices, in prepurchase evaluation of new types of RF transmitters to determine their effect on existing medical devices, in prepurchase evaluation of new electronic medical devices, and when checking for age-related changes in medical device RF immunity. Ad hoc testing can be used to estimate the minimum distance that should be maintained between a specific RF transmitter and a specific medical device to mitigate EMI. Policies and procedures for EMI mitigation should be based on objective information, such as that obtainable by ad hoc RF immunity testing.
  • RF transmitters purchased for use in the facility should have the lowest possible output power rating that can be used to accomplish the intended purpose.
  • Electrically-powered medical devices purchased for use in the facility should meet EMC standards.
  • Electronic medical devices used in intense electromagnetic environments, such as near ambulance radios or in electrosurgery, should have EMC specifications suitable for these environments.
  • Clinical/biomedical engineers should consider tracking "no problem found" service calls by the location, date, and time of the reported malfunction. This can help associate malfunctions with sources of electromagnetic disturbance (EMD).
  • EMI problems should be reported to the manufacturer and to regulatory authorities.
  • The health care organization may want to consider obtaining the services of an EMC professional for assistance in characterizing the electromagnetic environment, solving specific problems, and/or educating staff.

Adapted from Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation. Guidance on Electromagnetic Compatibility of Medical Devices for Clinical/Biomedical Engineers. AAMI TIR 18-1997. Arlington, Virginia: Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation; 1997.

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