View Full Version : MIG welding with Pacemaker?

Duct Taper
07-07-2008, 12:16 AM
I might have to get a pacemaker implant for my slow ticker. They say keep 2 feet from all sources of magnetism, like welders and motors. I am wondering if this also means the hand torch and ground cable, or will I just have to keep from hugging the transformer? The doctors don't know welding, the welders don't know doctoring. Does anybody out there have experience or knowledge about this? I am not sure I can survive if I can't make things.

07-07-2008, 01:05 AM
Hi DT.

A very topical question for older members and/or those with or about or considering insertion of a "Pacemaker".

This "Google" link may assist.


A friend of mine who was a keen welder was told to stay right away from using (and I think, the immediate vicinity of) electric welders. He was OK for any gas cutting or welding.

I would think that MIG, TIG, plasma, laser etc. would all be suspect.

I'd stay away until I have competent professional medical advice on the subject.

There may well be other HF-emitters that are on the "no-no" or "be wary" lists as well.

MIR scans certainly are - and this applies to any metal insert - including metal plates and screws, metal artificial joints and metal particles that are in the eyes.

07-07-2008, 09:55 AM
My dad had several pacemakers over the years. The first ones the Drs said to stay away from welders as well as ham radios. The last one or two they said it didnt matter. Bottom line, Ask the Dr before insertion. There are alot of differant pacemakers available.

John Stevenson
07-07-2008, 10:03 AM
I have always wondered if you get an AC/DC pacemaker do you have to start cross dressing ?


A.K. Boomer
07-07-2008, 10:15 AM
I didnt look at the who started this thread, My mind was racing, I thought Fasttrack had Isolated his crosslide somehow and put the migs wirefeed end in it - threw the ground clamp on a clean spot on the pacemaker (good luck finding one:p ), then had some kind of round steel object chucked up and was somehow using his lathe to weld with... :eek: Strong coffee this morning.

07-07-2008, 10:52 AM
Hi AK.

I suspect that was "Irish" coffee you had - sure sounds like it.

Seems to remind of some people who like their coffee like they like their women - hot, ***** and strong- and keep it coming!!

And where does the "pace-maker" fit in?

Half ya luck!!!

07-07-2008, 11:41 AM
I suggest you read my disclaimer linked below. I am not a doctor. But then neither are many doctors. Insurance liability concerns are in cases like this far more important than scientific truth.

OBJECTIVES: The study was done to determine whether patients with pacemakers could safely undergo magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) at 1.5-Tesla (T).

BACKGROUND: Because of theoretical risks, it is an absolute contraindication for a patient with a pacemaker to undergo MRI. However, there are times when an MRI is needed to provide valuable clinical information.

METHODS: Fifty-four patients underwent a total of 62 MRI examinations at 1.5-T. The type of MRI examination was not limited and included cardiac, vascular, and general MRI studies using various whole-body averaged specific absorption rate (SAR) of radiofrequency power. Restrictions were not placed on the type of pacemaker present in the patient. All pacemakers were interrogated immediately before and after MRI scanning, and patients were continuously monitored. Before and after MRI, interrogation was done, and pacing and sensing thresholds, as well as lead impedances, were all measured.

RESULTS: A total of 107 leads and 61 pulse generators were evaluated. No adverse events occurred. Forty (37%) of the leads underwent changes, whereas 10 (9.4%) leads underwent a significant change. Only 2 of the 107 (1.9%) leads required a change in programmed output. Threshold changes were unrelated to cardiac chamber, anatomical location, peak SAR, and time from lead implant to the MRI examination. Electrocardiographic changes and patient symptoms were minor and did not require cessation of MRI.

CONCLUSIONS: Safety was demonstrated in this series of patients with pacemakers at 1.5-T.

In this series of 62 non–pacemaker-dependent patient examinations, performance of unrestricted MRI procedures using a 1.5-T MR system was found to have an acceptable safety profile. Patient symptoms were mild and transient and did not lead to discontinuation of the examinations. Significant alteration of the pacing threshold was found in a small number of leads tested. These threshold changes required a programmed output change in only two leads and were of no clinical consequence. The threshold changes were unrelated to cardiac chamber, anatomical location, and time from lead implant to MRI examination and highest whole body SAR. Therefore, the belief in the presence of a pacemaker as an absolute contraindication to MRI should be re-evaluated.


1.5 Tesla is a magnetic field strong enough to pick up a steel tig bottle from across the room and suck it into the core of the machine. An MRI field is varying, pulsing and incredibly strong. It makes any fields produced by welding look like a candle beside an arc light.

You may wish to print out this particular study and take it to your "doctor" to find out what he/she has to say.

07-07-2008, 12:27 PM
I am merely relaying the advice I was given which the medical practitioner (Radiologist) advised was in accordance with international protocols that they were obliged to follow. It seems that I got all the "Yes/No" questions on the questionnaire correct as there were no concerns about me having an MRI scan.

I do not have a Pacemaker so it was not an issue for me.

I daresay that there are protocols that may allow of MRI scanning with a Pacemaker or magnetic metal prosthesis fitted, but as it was not an issue and I did not ask nor was I told, I let the matter rest.

07-07-2008, 01:12 PM
AK - I thought we were talking about a different type of pacemaker too...

Duct Taper - good luck! I hope you have a succesfull surgery, a quick recovery, and a long happy life filled with many miles of weld bead ;)

I wish I could offer some insight, but I've got nothing. Let us know what you find out.

Duct Taper
07-07-2008, 01:42 PM
Thanks for all the info. Evan's MRI info was very interesting. I also did the Google search recommended and found the Medtronic site. I think they would have the right info and this is what they recommended in their Q & A section. It sounds like I can continue on with life as I know it! Thanks again!


1. Limit welding current to a 60 to 130 ampere range.
2. Work in a dry area with dry gloves and shoes.
3. Keep the welding cables close together and as far away as possible from your pacemaker or ICD. Place the welding unit away from the work area.
4. 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.
5. Wait several seconds between attempts when having difficulty starting a weld.
6. Work in an area that offers firm footing and plenty of room for movement.
7. Work with an informed person who understands these suggestions.
8. Immediately stop welding and step away from the area if you start feeling light-headed, dizzy, or you believe your ICD has delivered a shock.

J. R. Williams
07-07-2008, 03:58 PM
Duct Taper
I have the Medtronic Defibrillator unit and a small magnet placed over the unit will TURN OFF the unit. I have done light TIG welding and take care as noted with the ground connection and keeping the power cables away from the unit. Nothing has shown up on the quarterly data checks.

07-07-2008, 04:18 PM
The problem with this sort of thing is this:

They design the unit to be resistant to any common source of magnetic fields including metal detectors, xray machines, powerful loudspeakers, toys etc. Then somebody from the legal department asks the lead engineer on the project "Is there any possibility that the unit could be affected by a magnetic field in an adverse manner?"

The engineer thinks to himself "...hmm... it would probably fail from the EMP caused by a nearby nuclear explosion. It might have trouble if the sun went nova and compressed the magnetosphere to ground level...."

SO he says to the legal dept guy "Why yes, I can think of several scenarios but they are.."

"Never mind the technical details, that all we need to know" says legal.

Jim Caudill
07-07-2008, 04:52 PM
I have a good friend with a Pacemaker and his doctor told him to avoid TIG welding with an HF unit operating. Apparently felt that MIG was OK, Does MIG have an HF component? Does TIG that does not utilize HF? "Scratch start TIG and that "Lift start" system may not have any HF.

07-07-2008, 11:02 PM
And what about laser or plasma cutters etc.?

Another friend of mine had a pace-maker implanted and had to stay right away from strong fields. This may have been 15 - 20 years ago.

Interestingly, the PM was a "re-cycle" job as it had been removed from the body of the previous user after death. His too (the same PM) was removed for re-use as soon as he died.

I have no idea how many previous times it had been implanted. So it was possibly "quite old" technology as my friend died about 8 years ago.

I would expect that technology and the options available would have advanced considerably in the mean-time.

The best option, if it were me, would be to ask my medial specialists for the options and costs available so that I could make an informed judgment based on my own requirements and resources.

On a similar note, the MRI specialist/Radiologist was concerned about hearing implants as well and it too was on the questionnaire that I had to complete.

Duct Taper
07-08-2008, 12:05 AM
Evan, you raise a good point about the legal advice from fetal position attorneys. I think am going to have an attorney right there for input while I am welding. "Never mind the technical details, all you need to know is to hold these two wires to provide legal input......

And I don't think I will settle for a used pacemaker. Everything else I buy is used and "needs a little work" but dang it, I deserve something new once in a while!

My wife is getting almost as old as I am so I told her I wanted to trade for a couple of young blonds. She said I couldn't handle one young blond much less two of them. I said I just wanted them to be able to work well together. About all I can do now is watch anyway!

This whole pacemaker deal was a shock but I am getting used to it now. Still don't like the idea and I don't need to try anything new anymore, but I still do like to see the sunrise. Thanks everybody for your input.

07-08-2008, 12:54 AM
I have a combo deifib, pacemaker. I have tig'ed, mig'ed,worked on vfd's and not set off yet.
They just want to cover they're butt, but be carefull. I really hate it when this thing zapps me , but I can't change my work habits. As I said your mileage may vary.


Bruce Griffing
07-08-2008, 02:21 AM
Even if you were not normally allowed to weld with your pacemaker, I am sure that it would be possible to make up some shielded clothing that would solve the problem. Sort of a Faraday shirt. (Google Faraday cage if curious about this reference). It might be a little uncomfortable in hot weather, but I am sure it could be done.

07-08-2008, 04:12 AM
A Faraday cage only protects against electrostatic fields, otherwise known simply as the electric field. While an electric field and a magnetic field are two sides of the same coin they are NOT the same. Electric fields cannot penetrate metal, magnetic fields can. Electric fields diminish as the inverse square of distance, magnetic fields with the inverse cube law.

That is a very important point since if you move from 1 foot to 2 feet from a source of an electromagnetic field the electric field will diminish to 1/4 of it's previous value but the magnetic field to 1/8. Double the distance again to 4 feet and the electrostatic field falls to 1/16 and the magnetic to 1/64.

To protect against a magnetic field, were it necessary, you would have to wear a completely covering suit of mu metal or similar material which can shield against a magnetic field. An electrostatic field can induce electric currents in a wire because the wire will act as an antenna. This can happen efficiently at a distance via "far field coupling". The magnetic component of any field can only be transmitted via "near field coupling" and very inefficiently at best except over very short distances. Efficient coupling of the near magnetic field requires distances of millimeters to centimeters at most and that supposes the object to which it couples is designed to respond to the magnetic field.

Welders produce both types of fields as does current flow in any conducting object. The electric fields they produce are weak and very intermittent with the notable exception of machines equipped with HF generators. That stands for High Frequency and is in effect a radio transmitter. Such a unit is able to induce currents in an antenna via far field coupling and would not be compatible with a pacemaker. The magnetic fields produced by a welder are dependent on the current and the configuration of the wires and work. Regardless though, those fields diminish extremely quickly with distance and are not efficient at inducing currents in metallic objects that are not designed for the purpose.

Bruce Griffing
07-08-2008, 07:55 PM
I agree that magnetic shielding would be needed. What I had in mind is something akin (in weight) to the aprons doctors wear during fluoroscopy. Those contain lead shielding and are pretty heavy. The welding shirt would not have to be that heavy, but it would not be light either.

J Tiers
07-08-2008, 10:38 PM
Magnetic shielding is not easy...... NO "shirt" is going to do anything really good, because it has to have several openings. Openings let in magnetic flux, and interrupt the path of flux in the "shield", which are about the same thing, effectively.

While it IS possible to have openings and still have useful shielding, it is less practical.

In any case, I don't think you could work in the shirt......

BTW, the lead you mentioned has essentially no effect on magnetic fields.

it is NOT true that thin non-magnetic materials cannot block mag fields, but they have to be *very* good conductors. And the mag fields need to be time-varying. For a good enough conductor, the mag field merely needs to have been zero at some past time.

If it was me, I would investigate and ask before jumping in. There is no guarantee that you are using the same device that another person was OK with.......

That said, I agree that in many cases it is just a case of covering the rump on the part of the manufacturers..... But how badly do you want to find out that your particular model has a defect that makes it more sensitive? It might not just give you a mild headache...

07-09-2008, 12:12 AM
There really are two parts to the use of an implanted device.

Whether it will interfere with what you want or have to do in day-to-day living and to what degree you can tolerate any restrictions (or cost!!); and

Irrespective of the opinions or advice of some here, if that device (or prosthesis) causes you to be denied or refused any future necessary "medical" (including Oncology) procedure, you may have have some difficult choices to make or facts to face. I can tell you that here if you have a Pace-maker inserted you may or will be refused MRI treatment or processes. It seems to be OK with "Atomic Medicine", CT scans or Radiotherapy.

I don't have emphysema but I know a lot who do and welding fumes do not help - at all. If an MRI scan is needed but is refused in cases of lung-cancer investigation or treatment there is cause for concern.

Another friend of mine, who used to swim every day was a heavy smoker and had blocked veins in his legs. While they were at it the Radiologist gave him a full torso/body scan and found an aneurysm ( a "bulging" in a weak vein/artery near his heart that was "about to go anytime". He was refused the operation and told to give up smoking there and then and to come back for a check in 3 months - and "not to worry"!!. He "made it". It scared the $hit out of him - and he does not frighten easily. There were signs of emphysema on his lungs as well.

I knew weldors who had emphysema who never smoked or who had "got the message" and knocked off smoking some years before but perhaps welding didn't help. A lot of years ago, welding rod fluxes had asbestos in them.

Its surprising how many people don't seem too concerned about welding fume extraction or removal.

There are others.

Each of these separately may be bad enough, but it gets a whole lot worse it the number of these things - and others -you may have increases - particularly as we age.

We are all getting older and the chances of needing such procedures and having related "problems" increases rapidly with age.

If I were to have Pace-maker inserted, I'd want to know if it could be removed if necessary for a potential future medical requirement and whether it could or should be replaced after that procedure.

Any that are immortal, "bullet-proof" or "not old enough" or are confident that it "can't/won't be me" or that they can "fix it" can disregard these matters.

If I were to need a Pace-maker fitted or inserted and if welding machine or process was a "no-no", any machine on that list would be disposed of - there and then - no questions asked. There would be no chance of them staying in my shop as "just one more time" temptation is too high. I would hope that never arises, but it can and might but I damn sure would ask and would take the professional medical advice I got - full stop!!!

Bruce Griffing
07-09-2008, 12:24 AM
J Tiers -
I mentioned the lead in radiation aprons as an example of weight as noted in paren. I do realize that lead would not be the best choice for this application. As to openings, I agree. So if I were designing it it would open in the back.

01-02-2017, 02:18 PM
I've been equipped with a defib/pacemaker since 2008 and recently had it replaced because the battery was going, the Dr replaced it with an upgraded unit, but, this is to say that I have welded, and been around welding frequently with no ill effects, however, out of an abundance of caution, I elected to quit welding and sold my welder because of the defib/pacemaker. I also have a mechanical heart valve, which factored into my decision. Before I was around the shop much, I called the mfg. of the magnetic chuck I had on my grinder and was told that as long as I didn't lay down on the chuck, I would be OK (they use a magnet to turn the defib/pacemaker on and off).
The welding instructor at the local tech school had a pacemaker and seemed to suffer no ill effects and he was around 25-30 students welding all day 5 days a week.
Another thing that affected my decision was the fact that I could feel my device reacting from time to time, I could feel it even when I touched an am/fm radio antenna. so I guess all the above is to say: get all the info you can on the subject.
read it and try to adhere to their advice---then try to do some welding and see if it has any effect and remember: the Medical profession is always going to say"NO" and the equipment manufacturer is always going to say "NO PROBLEM"---and the correct answer is somewhere in the middle.