Dutch researchers said on Thursday that usage of cell phones near important equipment or hospital beds is dangerous and could disrupt pacemakers or switch off ventilators.
Nearly 50 incidents of electromagnetic interference from cell phone usage in hospitals was recorded by the researchers of the University of Amsterdam and classified 75 percent of them as significant or hazardous.
Because of this cell phones should come no closer than one meter to hospital beds and equipment, said the researchers who published their study in BioMed Central's online open access journal Critical Care.
"Critical care equipment is vulnerable to electromagnetic interference by new-generation wireless telecommunication technologies with median distances of about 3 centimeters," they wrote.
The study contradicts a study earlier this year from researchers at the Mayo Clinic who found that 300 tests over a five-month period turned up no noticeable interference with important hospital equipment due to regular cell phone use.
The Dutch team -- which tested 61 different medical devices -- found that most of the incidents stemmed from the latest General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) signal, a new-generation technology that allows things such as wireless Internet access.
Other malfunctions they attributed to electromagnetic interference included complete stops with no alarms in syringe pumps and incorrect pulsing by an external pacemaker.