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August 28, 1972

Medical News

JAMA. 1972;221(9):957-968. doi:10.1001/jama.1972.03200220003002

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Microwaves and pacemakers— just how well do they go together  ?The question surfaced again this spring: How safe are cardiac pacemakers in the presence of microwave radiation?An Air Force study cast doubt on the performance of some models.In fairly rapid order, the study touched off lively debate in at least one medical meeting; prompted a federal agency to request additional safety information from pacemaker manufacturers; led to a meeting of some manufacturers' representatives and medical authorities to consider a suitable response to the federal query.The safety question itself may be overemphasized, several sources—including even federal regulatory officials—suggested to Medical News. After all, there have been notably few clinical reports of pacemaker malfunction due to electromagnetic interference.The incident illustrates, however, the sticky business of trying to regulate medical device safety. It raises a larger question: how far should government go in forcing changes in medical devices such