EMPs and pacemakers

I just read about devices (or nuclear explosions) which create an electromagnetic pulse, which then in turn knocks out all electric equipment within a certain area. Would that also knock out pacemakers in its vicinity and therefore kill people who are fully dependent on it?

I know that this is very hypothetical and the chances of dying by a lightning strike are probably even higher than this, but I think it's an interesting question nonetheless.


Surviving A Nuclear Explosion With A PM

by SMITTY - 2011-03-18 01:03:46

Hello Dave,

The electromagnetic pulse would probably take out the circuit board in a pacemaker. Of course if you were that close to a nuclear explosion it probably wouldn't matter what happened to the PM because your probability of being killed instantly, or dying later, of radiation poisoning, would most likely be very high.

But lets say you did survive and you were pacemaker dependant. Depending on why you were dependant (and there are several different reasons a person can be PM dependant) you may still be around long enough to get help. Our heart has a backup natural pacemaker. This is located in the collecting or pumping chambers of the heart, or around the AV Junction (the junction between the atria and ventricles). This backup PM will step in and keep you going like I said a little while.



by donr - 2011-03-18 08:03:50

Every nuclear explosion includes an EMP of some magnitude. All military equipment is designed (we hope) to survive this pulse. IIRC, the main thrust was in power generation loops - like 60KW generators in the field.

The popular EMP talked about in the press, etc. is from a weapon especially designed to produce a significantly larger EMP. It's specific purpose is to disrupt communications & power generation equipment at great distances, so you know it is a whopper.

They are postulated to be detonated at high altitudes to optimize the effect over great distances.

Unless that one detonates right over you, you will never hear, see or feel it - unless it fries your PM or kills your iPod. Now that would be a blessing to any 75 yr old dealing w/ a 20 yr old grandson!


I was wondering the same thing!

by mermaidonfoot - 2011-03-18 12:03:22

I read about a man in Japan that is having a hard time as he lived close to the nuke explosion and he had a pm...


by mckainjm - 2011-05-03 01:05:56

I had this concern and was curious, however if there is an atomic detonation even if it was hundreds of miles away it would still damage or even destroy the PM. EMP is based on altitude and yield, if it is at the optimum altitude with enough yield I've got problems.

EMP Hysteria

by MV - 2011-10-28 01:10:20

Electromagnetic Pulses (EMP) decrease in intensity at a 1/R squared rate (where R is range to the explosion that creates the EMP). So the amount of energy is relatively small, but large enough to create a voltage surge in semiconductor equipment capable of causing a failure. The intent is to destroy unprotected communications equipment and other electronics.

Things that are encased in metal cases (known as Faraday cages) will be immune to EMP. So your car engine quitting after an EMP is probably unlikely due to the fact that the automotive electronics is well shielded by the engine block and the metal car body which creates a sort of Faraday cage.

Likewise, your Pacemaker may be encapsulated in metal. Any EMP surge would come in through induction into the pacing leads. Note that some Pacemakers are designed to withstand the overvoltage encountered by a defibrillator which would have a much higher current density (ability to burn out electronics) than would an EMP pulse. I think that it is highly unlikely that EMP will take out your Pacemaker if it is metal cased, but what do I know? I've only been working with defense electronics for 35 years and have advanced degrees in electrical engineering as an emeritus principal researcher at a major university.

RE: EMP Hysteria

by gshuten - 2012-04-08 10:04:23

true or not?
An EMP will travel thru the human flesh and tissue primarily the heart tissue? If it does or can travel thru tissue and deep enough it will conduct thru the metal tips implanted in to my heart.

EMP & Pacemakers

by Dianasguy2 - 2012-07-21 06:07:13

Medtronic states that most devices (weed eater, microwave, power tools, cell phones, radios, ect) will not affect your Heart Pacer as long as it is 6 inches or more away from the implanted device. However they also state that some devices like chain saw and airport security (not store type) can temporarily interrupt the function of the heart pacer. The EMP from these devices do not harm the device, just shuts them off.
A much stronger EMP from a military device, or generated from the sun would at the very least turn the device off. (According to the manufacture.) How serious this would be depends on why it was implanted.
Now knowing that EM can and will pass through your body to turn it off, yes a strong enough pulse could destroy the electronics. So far from what I have found the manufactures are not saying much about very strong EMP sources. EMP does not hurt the heart or other parts of your body directly.
If mine is shut down I will not live long, do I worry about it, no, at least not until there is actually something I can do about it. Just treat every day like it is the best day of your life.

EMPs and Cardiac Devices

by adc3 - 2013-12-16 06:12:50

I came across this thread when researching for a presentation I am doing. I have been a medical scientist working with pacemakers for 36 years, and I think I can give a definitive answer!
The hermetically sealed can will indeed be a pretty good Faraday cage so no direct damage from an EMP. However the potential induced in the pacemaker leads might be damaging. A bipolar system with, say, 5mm electrode separation will, with a major high-altitude EMP generating ~25 kV/m in the northern US, deliver a voltage pulse to the circuitry of about 900V - this won't damage a pacemaker, they are designed to cope with external defibrillator voltages. A UNIPOLAR system, where the electrodes may be 15cm apart, will generate a bigger voltage, maybe 4-5kV, to the generator, and this could be damaging.
But probably not as damaging as what the nuclear device does next.

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