Welding Safety 101: Welding and Pacemakers

Heart - VierdrieLike distant relatives, this is an issue that will never go away. Like distant relatives, this is an issue that we need to set straight.

The concern with how a pacemaker will react during the process of welding is a reoccurring topic in the welding world.

The main question: Can I still weld if I use a pacemaker?

Pacemakers are medical devices that help the heart maintain a normal rhythm. These electrical devices are implanted in cardiac patients. The electromagnetic energy that is present during welding is random, so there is no way to predict exactly how a pacemaker will react to it every time.

There are some who say, “Yes, you can weld.”

Dr. Brian Olshansky gave this response in the video “Can I Go Near Someone Who Is Welding After Having A Pacemaker Implanted?,” posted on ABC.com:

Well, yes you can, but there are certain precautions that you need to take.

For example, if you’re near coiled wires that have high electrical current, they can interfere with normal pacemaker function and inhibit a pacemaker from functioning so that it will stop working temporarily.

If you’re very close to arc welding — I think it’s called MIG and TIG welding — this kind of electrical current can be a problem, again, by inhibiting pacemaker activity. It’s best to stay 24 inches away from welding, so an arm’s distance.

If you happen to be a welder with a pacemaker or defibrillator, it’s best to use short bursts of welding and also to work in a dry area.

Yet, there are some who say, “No, you cannot weld.”

Medtronic, a creator of medical technologies for chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart failure, advices pacemaker holders to stay away from welding. For the reason explained above – the unpredictability of the electromagnetic energy created during welding – they warn those with pacemakers to retire the welding equipment. Full details can be found here.

However, if you must weld, here are some safety tips Medtronic offers:

1. Keep ampere range under 130

2. Keep your clothing (includes gloves and shoes) and work area dry

3. There should be at least a 2ft distant between your pacemaker and the welding arc

4. Also keep welding cables and the unit as far from you as possible. The recommended distance for the welding unit is around 5 feet from where you work.

You can read the rest of the tips here.

 

The American Welding Society suggests that no one weld until they have spoken to their physician and gathered information about the pacemaker from its manufacturer.

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9 thoughts on “Welding Safety 101: Welding and Pacemakers”

  1. Michael Bock says:

    I received my pacemaker on Dec. 26,2016. I am concerned about learning to weld with a wire welder how it may effect my pacemaker. I also do some model railroading and use a airbrush. do I need to take care not to use these tools. The wire welder max is 120 amperage. I really need some info here, cause my doctor says no welding and that disappoints me since I really wanted to learn and I have purchased these tools already. Please help me.

  2. Dennis Fox says:

    Is there a shield for pacemaker security when welding?

  3. Bob Hancock says:

    I received my pacemaker in September 2016. I have switched primarily to oxyacetylene; however, I still do a very limited amount of flux core arc welding (wire feed). I have a Hobart Handler 140 and ALWAYS use the minimum amperage necessary. The manufacturer of my pacemaker, Medtronics says I can weld if the amperage is under 160. That means no shielded metal arc welding (stick welding). I get my pacer checked every 90 days and I have never had an magnetic interference show up when my pacer is checked. I also follow their other recommendations including 2 feet from the arc to my pacer – this is easy as my pacer is on the right side and I am left handed. I have also wrapped the work cable around the wire feed cable and so far no problems. All I can say is yes, I do it, but VERY CAREFULLY. My cardiologist does not like it, but we have agreed that if any magnetic interference ever shows up…..that’s it NO MORE ARC WELDING…..AND THAT IS NOT DEBATABLE !!!

    I also researched some type of apron to shield against the magnetic field of the arc, but found out that is not feasible. No such apron is made and even if made it would not do any good as the magnetic field is all around.

    1. bakersgas says:

      Stay safe!

  4. Raymond says:

    Whats the effects of an inverter welder om a infibrillatur ?

    1. Gary Bass says:

      Did you ever find out about the effects of an inverter welder on a infibrillatur?

  5. guillermo says:

    when i recieved my pacemaker hospital room was tight so i was in a shared room. my roomie was an aircraft technical welder that had been used by my pacemaker supplier, St Jude, as a test subject. they coiled the leads around his shoulder over his pacemaker and had him weld with high frequency TIG. the pacer was monitored the whole time and it ran without interruption. when i arrived home my first action was to fire up my primitive hi freq unit and TIG weld aluminum. i had no problem so i have continued to weld, air arc at 600 amps and stick weld at 200 amps. i have a St Jude unit installed in 2013. i just had a device check and it is running fine.
    the greatest consideration is are you pacemaker dependent. i am not. it was installed to fix tachy/brady condition which started after cardiac ablation for a-fib.
    it is a personal decision and you have to decide if it is worth the risk. i am a millwright and metal working is central in my life. the rules have been written by lawyers that want to eliminate all risks with no consideration of the cost to you in your trade. G

    1. Wayne says:

      Thanks for the comment about welding!

    2. Chai says:

      Thank you I am also a metal worker and welder by trade. I am only 36 years old and had a d fib put in because I have a-fib. It was also a decision the doctor recommended I have put in so I did. So now I figure I will continue welding.

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