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Pacemakers and Welding


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The electromagnetic fields around some welders (depending on type) can be pretty strong.
I useta work in one place, where one of the spot welders would be strong enough to make your watch run faster. The hand would literally scoot around every time you did a weld. The blokes who worked there also warned me that ATM cards could be erased by the field.
I'd imagine that a pacemaker is a pretty sensitive device. If ther'es enough EMF about, it'd be enough to throw it out of whack!

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  • 2 years later...

Here's my question for the month: Since I recently had defibrillator/ pacemaker installed in my chest, I'm wondering.......does anyone out there have any experience with this situation?

First thing after my surgery, my doctor informed me to stay away from electromagnetic fields.........that proximity to them could disrupt the unit in my chest.
In short.....NO ARC WELDING! The Literature the hospital sent me home with said the same thing, but with the caveat that "If you have to arc weld, you can.......if you follow some simple safety rules."

I'm getting a contradictory message here........."Yes you can" and "No you can't"

I went for my checkup, today........saw my doctor, and also the company rep for the defibrillator I have.

Apparently, at this time, I do not need the pace maker function.......that section of the implant is not activated. If my heart were to jump out of rthym again (it hasn't so far) I would get a high voltage shock to set things right again.

My doc and the rep told me of a welding instructor (with a defibrillator) who manages to weld a little by keeping amperage at 130 or below, wearing dry shoes, heavy gloves, staying away from the generator/transformer as much as possible.
Also important seems to be to keep the arc a minimum of 2 ft. from the unit in my left shoulder.

This is merely research on my part, and may be too dangerous to attempt.

I also looked at a welding site that said that 'Arc welding with a defibrillator is doable if special precautions are taken.........so...........

What do you guys think? Any experience with this?


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Jayco, when I researched this a couple of years ago, I was working in a shop with induction heaters BIG fields. I borrowed a gauss meter to measure the field and everywhere in the shop near an induction heater was above the medical device makers limits.
Recently I had a similar question to yours. we do lots of mig and small automatic tig welding in my current employment. The device makers reccomend staying out of these ares. They note in their liturature that uncommanded shock from the device may occur in these areas. They also note that in most cases no effects would be noted. And in some cases the device may register an error when the device is checked as is common in follow-ups at the Doctor.
I know its hard, but perhaps you should change to only forge and gas welding.

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i know its a far jump but my grandfather has had a pacemaker implanted and also he was told absolutely not welding, so he actually has to run out of the shop when ever u start working. but he still welds himself, he has a old Oxy Act set that he uses. no electricity, GOOD. with a good bit of practice, most any metal can be welded with a gas set up, yes it is much slower than any arc welder, but it wont send the computer in your chest crazy

ive seen some great welding with this little torch, i have one myself, there a little odd to get use to, but after just a few minets of use, i love the thing. you may find it named, the Henrob, Dillon, or cobra.
Henrob 2000 Welding and Cutting Torch - $379 everyday! - FREE shipping

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my friend has one and i know he has a 110v hobart mig in his shop that he uses and so fare no problems with welding with that i do know that he had to give up running his race boats cause of the msd ignition system would set his defibulator off so if you or your friends have racecars or any type of race engines beware that could set it off . he told me when it went of it was like geting shocked from a 220 buzbox so if you try any welding make sure some one is close for the first time in case you need them

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My dads defib/pace maker combination unit gives him about 780volts, but I must add it has saved his life a few times. No magnetic fields are allowed around it, with one exception.

FYI as an EMT in the ER we use a magnet (these are NOT carried in an ambulance, only the heart Doc's apply them NOT us) to disable the unit. As the on/off switch is activated that way so they don't have to cut them open to stop it from misfiring during a test, or replacement.

So those warnings are not only to prevent an accidental shock, they could mess up the unit as well. It would be a real shame to have it stop working, and not know until you found out the hard way :o

sign me, the Man with too many side jobs

Edited by steve sells
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I should add at this point that I do have options.

I can practice up on my forge welding skills
I already have an O/A torch (I just never did much welding with it) that I can use.
I have a 27 year old son who lives here on the farm and can arc weld.
If I have to have something arc welded, he could do it.

I suppose it's just my natural curiousity to want to know as much as I can about the subject.

I'm in no hurry to try arc welding.......I would like to amass some information on the subject, though.

Thanks for all the replies, James

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I would say for sure error on the side of caution. I went to laser service school about 5 years ago. One of the things they asked us at the get go was if we had similar devices on us or in us. The filaments in those slab lasers, even though they are heavily shielded, put out some spooky fields. I agree with Finnr, let's keep you around for as long as possible. Everyone else and yourself has listed good options. Gas weld, forge weld, son weld!!!!

Take care and be safe.

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I'm not really sure why you would ask a medical technology question on a blacksmithing forum. Perhaps you should go ahead and weld at increasing amps until you reach a threshold that triggers the defib. Then you will know the upper limit and can keep away from that in the future. Having seen a patient after an errantly discharging unit, I can assure you that there will be no mistaking when you get the wakeup call.

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Ed, the reason I asked the question here is because I figured some other smith or welder has had experience with this situation and could relate what he or she has learned.

I am in no hurry to experiment on myself with my defib and arc welder.

I have recently heard 2 stories of what defibrillation feels like.

That it feels like 'getting kicked in the chest by a mule'
and.........that it 'knocks you flat to the ground'

Neither of these descriptions sounds very pleasant........

So, for the present time, I'm brushing up on my forge welding.......learning a little about O/A welding........and staying away from the arc welder.......at least until I understand a whole lot more about this issue.


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I am not a doctor nor am I a medical instrument specialist, and certainly not a tech rep for the specific device implanted in you at significant cost for a serious condition. These are the people that you should listen to about what your particular device can handle and what your safest operating conditions are.

However, I am a paramedic, and have a rudimentary understanding of the heart, specifically when things are going south. In the off chance the doctor's explanation of your defibrillator wasn't clear, or that some readers of this thread came here instead of a defibrillator help line, I will give an overview of the hazard as I understand it.

The defibrillator does not restart your heart if it stops; it sends a significant scrambling bunch of current through the heart to MAKE it STOP when its normal pace-making is all amuck. This typically only stands a chance of working when the heart is in ventricular fibrillation (just quivering, not pumping) or ventricular tachycardia (beating so fast and so out of whack that it is not pumping). Those two instances happen for several reasons, but they both mean that the normal pace-making cells of the heart are not functioning, and other cells are trying to pace, firing just about anywhere and everywhere except rhythmically or meaningfully. In either case you will almost certainly die rather quickly if no action is taken. By shocking and stopping the heart, the hope is that the normal pacemaker cells will start firing when they are supposed to and that the rest of the heart is intact enough to respond correctly to that pacing. It is very drastic and has its own hazard, as you can imagine.

Soooo... given that description, my personal guess as to one of the hazards of EMF and vagrant currents through the body, is that the defibrillator (remember it only fires for vfib or vtach) could sense the uncoordinated current as one of the two fixable conditions and try to correct it by stopping your heart. Also, the implant itself is an electronic/electrical device with whatever inherent design vulnerabilities to overload by EMF or current.

If you do trigger the defib, then you're supposed to go have it checked out. I wonder if that is free if you caused it.

As I said, I don't even personally know an expert, much less pretend to be one. You already have one of those at your disposal -- the doctor that installed it. That's the man to ask; not anecdotal internet blacksmith buddies. The current state of your particular unit may well allow you to do limited electric welding; there is no way any of us can know that, one way or the other. Only the manufacturer and the doctor can tell you that.

Here is one thread that is probably clearer about how things work than I am in my description (I assume you already read the user's manual for your unit):

Compatibility of TIG and MIG with implanted defibrillator - sci.engr.joining.welding | Google Groups

Damnit Jim, I'm a blacksmith, not a doctor.


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Ed, thanks for all the information. I never realized just how complex the interactions between my 'device' and electromagnetic fields could be.
I will be seeing the doctor who installed my defib, and the company rep too........but I seriously doubt there will be any recomendations to 'just go ahead and weld'.

From what I'm learning,it looks there are just too many things that can go wrong.
Some risks are not worth taking. Cardiac arrythmias are serious matters!

Thanks a million........James

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Paraphrased From a Welder User's Manual:

Considerations About Welding And The Effects Of Low Frequency Electric And Magnetic Fields Welding current, as it flows through welding cables, will cause electromagneticfields. There has been and still is some concern about such fields. However, after examining more than 500 studies spanning 17 years of research, a special blue ribbon committee of the National Research Council concluded that: “The body of evidence, in the committee’s judgment, has not demonstrated that exposure to powerfrequency electric and magnetic fields is a human-health hazard.” However, studies are still going forth and evidence continues to be examined. Until the final conclusions of the research are reached, you may wish to minimize your exposure to electromagnetic fields when welding or cutting.

To reduce magnetic fields in the workplace, use the following procedures:
1. Keep cables close together by twisting or taping them.
2. Arrange cables to one side and away from the operator.
3. Do not coil or drape cables around your body.
4. Keep welding power source and cables as far away from operator as practical.
5. Connect work clamp to workpiece as close to the weld as possible.

About Pacemakers: Pacemaker wearers consult your doctor first. If cleared by your doctor, then following the above procedures is recommended.

Edited by steve sells
bad text sizing
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  • 4 weeks later...

I must say as an EMT-IV working for over 15 years on an advances life support ambulance in Tenn. this is the first time I have had someone raise that question. As Steve said we have used a magnet on a hospice situation under doctors orders to stop a pacemaker/defibrillator when a patient was passing on. So all I could add is this, being in the area or welding yourself you may not feel any effect to your pacemaker BUT, you could disable it without knowing it. Which would mean when you did need it, it might not be working and to late to fix it then. When you have a demand pacer (as it sounds like you do) it does only work when needed by pacing or by shock what ever the need laying dormant the rest of the time, which I'm sure you already know. But if it worked all the time you might feel a skip or change to your rhythm letting you know something is a miss.
All in all I'm just casting my vote to go with caution and stay away from anything that might, no matter how slight, cause you harm.
Best safe then sorry
Bill P

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I would have to advise against all arc welding at any amperage or voltage.

It is too easy to have an accidental shock that you did not intend to have.

It seems like I always get shocked mildly and sometimes pretty bad when either clamping in a new rod, or touching the workpiece.

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Jayco, you should get ahold of Don Foreman, who hangs out on the newsgroup rec.crafts.metalworking. He did a lot of research and field testing before getting his implant. He even got to present his findings to the makers of his implant.

Here is a link of his comments about talking to them. You should be able to find the rest of the information from it, or e-mail him directly:

An interesting afternoon - rec.crafts.metalworking | Google Groups

Good luck.

Edit: Yes he can weld stick and MIG with his implant, with some precautions.

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  • 1 month later...

Well, it's been a while since I got the difibrillator, and since I began asking questions about it.

Thanks to all those that have added valuable information to this thread.

Since I last posted in this thread, I have had 3 occasions in which the unit had discharged, or "kicked".
(No, none of them was arc welding related)

The "kick" is not pleasant at all..........quite sickening, then quite painfull..............like a mini explosion in your chest.
Thankfully, it is over rather quickly.

What's really strange is that all the discharges I've had happened while over-exerting myself in the GARDEN!, and involved being bent over or lifting.

It is, after all, a strong electrical shock. To me, that's how it felt.
After each incident, I was left sore, weak, and a little disoriented for a few minutes.

In other words, I WILL NOT be trying to arc weld!..........at least not until, new devises or special shielding.....or something...........is developed to make arc welding safe and possible for folks who have these devises.

For the time being, I will be putting my attention toward learning to gas weld, improving my forge welding, etc.........and letting my son do the arc welding.

James Flannery

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I am sorry you can't use the electric welders. I personally think the risk is small but real, and believe you are making the right decision.

Basically, anything to do with forming metal is good. Maybe this closed door will open others to you. Where you might once have welded two pieces together, you might find a way to make a decorative join instead now.

Old metal-working machines can still be had pretty cheaply many places, and they can be a lot of fun in their own right. For instance, over the weekend, I used my 1950 lathe to make tooling for my 1960 vertical mill to hold a cutter and a work piece in a rough indexer to make a gear... so I could improve my WWII Steptoe Shaper, so I can begin shaping the missing sow block on my Beaudry power hammer.

At the other extreme, I just spent about a week on some ornate door handles that were almost entirely tooled by hand and with treadle hammer... no forge-welding, even.

I've seen unbelievably good welds done with a torch, and have often used a torch set to do welding where electricity wasn't available. With practice, I think you might find you aren't handicapped at all without the arc welder.

I'm glad you are still able pursue your interests and hobbies, and hope they get your electrical hiccups cured soon.


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