Cellphones and Hospitals -- an urban legend? — PinoyExchange

Cellphones and Hospitals -- an urban legend?

Good doctors, here is an email forward I just received, which I highly suspect is yet another medical urban legend. Is there any veracity to this account?

The next time you visit someone in the hospital, do look out for signs that say, "NO PHONES ALLOWED". You might not realise what unfortunate things can happen to your negligence. Be compassionate on other lives.

This story was told by one Houseman in a local hospital. One day, a 4 year-old girl was admitted due to leg fracture. As it was an open fracture, she had to undergo an operation to stitch the protruding bone back in place. Though it was quite a minor operation, still she was hooked onto a life support system, as it's somehow part of the process.

The doctors had to input some data prior to the operation to suite different conditions.

Thereafter, the operation proceeded. Half way through the process, the life support system suddenly went dead.

The culprit: some idiot was using his/her handyphone outside the Operation Theatre. And the frequency had affected the system. They tried to track the fellow but to no avail. The little girl, young and innocent as she was, died soon after. Sad to say, she was the only child, and her mother could never be able to conceive again!

* Message : Be compassionate! *

Do not use your handphone at any hospital or places where you're told not to use it. You might not be caught in the act, but you might have killed someone without knowing!

Please pass this on to as many people as possible, as many are just not aware of the seriousness it can cause!

My own comments:

Now, I know that cellphones can indeed cause machine interference, but I haven't noticed any "NO PHONES ALLOWED" signs in any hospitals. And don't a lot of doctors use cellphones and pagers in and out of the hospital?

Also, is it true that minor surgery for a leg fracture requires that the patient be hooked up to a life support system? And even then, I think the girl would die from other complications besides its cellphone-induced failure. The horribly tragic death ("only child to a barren mother!") also strikes me as a dramatic contrivance.

And of course, I haven't seen any of this come up in the news. I imagine something like this would make a bit of a splash in the headlines, wouldn't it?

I'm no doctor myself, of course, so I'd love to hear Doc Ira's or Doc batang uliran's professional opinion on this. I've checked the urban legends sites, and they don't have anything.

[This message has been edited by brownpau (edited 06-13-2000).]


  • I work in a hospital where there are signs everywhere discouraging the use of cell phones within the confines of the hospital.
    Major reason is because it interferes with the Baby Alarm installed in the facility which alerts all personells that a baby is stolen or abducted when the alarm has been set off.

    The administration experienced quite a number of announced false codes the recent year, and upon investigation of the cause of such, found out that the alarm is sensitive to whatever it is that the cell phone is transmitting into the airwaves. Ergo, the signs were put up.

    We would rather have false alarms than think of the alarms as similar to the boy who cried wolf.
  • Ira
    Ira Member
    LOL, this is not an urban legend. It's true. :D A lot of private hospitals ban the use of cellular phones, especially in the ICU-CCU units. I'm sure you've seen firsthand what a cellphone does to your television and your computer monitor. The waves act the same way on hospital equipment-- it drives them bonkers, and since these equipments are much more sensitive than our electronic stuff at home, they go haywire. Try bringing out your cellphone at the Makati Medical Center ICU---you'll be cursed to high heavens and thrown out of the unit. :D
  • OK. I'll note that next time I'm in a hospital. Thanks, docs! :)

    However, I'm still wondering about the story of that four-year old girl dying. To correct an open fracture, is it really SOP to put her on life-support? And even if she were on life-support, would she die if cellphone interference cut off the machine's operation?
  • Ira
    Ira Member
    I cannot be certain if this story is real or not since the details of the operation and the kid's history is sorely lacking, but if you're going to perform surgery on kids with open-type fractures, they are sedated, then given general anesthesia and muscle relaxants, then intubated and hooked up to monitors which check your heart, oxygen saturation, etc. I guess, depending on how a layman looks at it, it can be called life support.

    However, it is only very rarely that you put a surgery patient on respirator, and personally, I've never even seen a patient put on respirator for reduction and fixation of an open fracture. If the anesthesia consultant left his post and did not bother to check on the patient at the OR table, and a complication arises with no one there to correct it, it is possible to die on the table. But I seriously doubt if the death is due to the interference that a cellphone causes--the usual machines used in an operating room serve to monitor a patient's vital signs, not to keep him alive. You depend on the anesthesiologist for that, not the machines.
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