Is it safe to weld with a pacemaker?

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We recently received a call at Arc-Zone.com HQ from a customer that wanted to know if there were any limitations to welding for individuals with a pacemaker or implanted defibrillator.  I had never thought about it before and I didn’t know the answer.  I decided to research it and share my findings with all of our readers and customers here on the blog.  Since this is an important issue that affects many men and women, we thought we’d post this blog both here and on the Joe Welder blog.

Conclusion and Disclaimer

Since this is a very serious medical issue and we are not very serious medical people, we will post the most important conclusion of this blog post right up front: consult your doctor!  Only your heart doctor can tell you what activities are dangerous, and how you should handle them.  Welding is an activity that is considered dangerous, so read up on the resources we provide below, do your own research, and most importantly, call your doc!  We provide resources and information that we’ve found in our research, but this is no replacement for your doctor’s expertise.  They didn’t spend years in medical school for nothing.

Electromagnetic Energy

The primary concern when welding with a pacemaker or defibrillator is the high electromagnetic (EM) energy created by the welding machine.  This electromagnetic energy can cause your pacemaker to continuously pace the heart, which can cause an irregular heart rate if your heart is already beating fine on its own.  On the other hand, the spike in EM energy when spot welding or starting a bead can cause a pacemaker to pause temporarily if it were pacing your heart.  Both of these situations are not good.  Implanted defibrillators could detect the EM energy from the welder as a fast heart rhythm, causing it to deliver shock (yikes!).

Interestingly, according to medtronic, the electromagnetic field created by a welding machine won’t cause any permanent damage or re-programming to your pacemaker or implanted defibrillator.  The primary concern is how these devices behave in the presence of the intense electromagnetic energy.  Any potential effects will end when the welding is stopped or turned off.

Another point to note is that Oxy-Fuel welding does not create an electromagnetic field, so it is safe to use with an implanted pacemaker or defibrillator.

How Can I Reduce The Risk?

Here’s a good list of precautions that we found from Medtronic:

  • Limit welding current to less than 120 amps
  • Work in a dry area with dry gloves and shoes
  • Maintain a 2 foot distance between the welding arc and the heart device
  • Keep the welding cables close together (twist them together if possible) and as far away as possible from your heart device
  • Place the welding machine as far away as possible, and at least 5 feet away from your work area
  • Wait several seconds between attempts when having difficulty starting a weld (don’t rapidly pulse the welder)
  • Work in an area that offers firm footing and plenty of room for movement
  • Work with an informed person that understands what you’re dealing with
  • Immediately stop welding and step away from the area if you start to feel lightheaded, dizzy, or you believe your implantable defibrillator has delivered a shock

Resources

AWS

Medtronic

American Heart Association

Pacemaker Club discussion on the topic

 

 

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15 comments on “Is it safe to weld with a pacemaker?”:

  1. ROBERT

    the st jude rep said it was ok to weld with pacemaker , i welded using tig on aluminum at 250 amps it didn’t bother me at all .date pacemaker installed was oct 1st 2014.

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  2. charl

    Ek is Charl ek wil weet as ek u hartpasaangere het sal dit my werk soos sweis ,snywerk met gas of eenig iets anders laat weet maar baie dankie

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  3. Ernie

    I would go with a Medtronics Sure scan pacemaker, you can still have MRI’s safely performed and it does not interfere with most electronic fields. had mine implanted in Feb 2014

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  4. Steve

    I had a St Jude ICD pacemaker implanted Jan 2016. I requested this one after doing what research I could online. There was a factory rep assisting the implant. I was very impressed. Factory rep at hospital said I could weld with limits. I picked St Jude because Their published limits were ( not over 400 amps. (Good grounding, (shield cable with ground twisted around lead. Go to their website, They have their limits on there. As always no guaranties. Use caution. don’t weld on operating machines, on ladders etc. Change in pacing can cause you to get dizzy, faint, or fall. I have been told when you quit welding, and move away from the welder and leads most pacemakers return to normal operation. Probably a good idea to have someone who can help you out when you are attempting welding. I have not tried yet, but will soon.

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  5. Don

    I have a medtronics fitted since 2014 and spent a short time tig welding aluminium (95A) with no noticeable effects. Mind you if mine stopped the heart will/should continue on its own but at a very low rate. I’m considering buying and wearing a chain mail vest and grounding it to act as a faraday cage.
    Hopefully it will reduce the risk

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    1. MHenry

      We found this info on the Medtronics Website in their FAQs:
      Q: I read in my patient manual that I should avoid welding. Why?
      A: Unlike most other household power tools, welding with currents above 160 amps may have a higher tendency to temporarily affect the normal function of your pacemaker or implantable defibrillator.

      Q: What if I may need to use a welder?
      A: It is recommended you avoid using welding currents above 160 amps. Follow the safety precautions below to minimize the risk of interfering with your heart device while welding with currents under 160 amps.

      Welding Safety Precautions

      Limit welding to currents less than 160 amps
      Work in a dry area with dry gloves and shoes
      Maintain a 2-foot (60 centimeter) distance between the welding arc and heart device
      Keep the welding cables close together and as far away as possible from your heart device. Place the welding unit approximately 5 feet from the work area.
      Connect the ground clamp to the metal as close to the point of welding as possible. Arrange the work so the handle and rod will not contact the metal being welded if they are accidentally dropped.
      Wait several seconds between attempts when having difficulty starting a weld
      Work in an area that offers firm footing and plenty of room for movement
      Work with an informed person who understands these suggestions
      Immediately stop welding and step away from the area if you start feeling lightheaded, dizzy, or you believe your implantable defibrillator has delivered a shock
      Since welding equipment may temporarily affect the normal operation of your heart device, any decision you make to use this equipment should be made in consultation with your heart doctor. Your doctor can advise you as to the degree of risk these responses pose for your medical condition.

      Aprons or vests will not effectively shield your pacemaker or implantable defibrillator from the electromagnetic energy generated by welding equipment.

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  6. Paul

    I have to wear a wearable defibrillator and I’m a mig welder, and my welding machine is right under my table I work on. I need to know if it’s going to be dangerous for me to work especially when the time comes for me to get my pacemaker implanted.

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  7. Gregory

    I’m a auto body tech I got my pace maker Oct 14 2016 went back to work Oct 20 2016 been MIG welding almost everyday I ware gloves and try not to touch any bare metal while welding, will use the tip to twist the cables.

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