Diabetes monitors may endanger avalanche victims, study finds

Avalanche victims could die undiscovered if their searchers suffer from diabetes, a New Zealand study has found.

Radio beacons used to find people trapped under the snow were weakened by monitors some type 1 diabetes sufferers used, according to the research.

Endocrinologist Dr Steven Miller of North Shore Hospital led the small study into the effects of blood sugar monitors and insulin pumps on two common avalanche transceivers.

Operating normally, the beacons could receive signals from transmitting beacons more than 30 metres away, but that fell to just 4.8 metres when the beacon was close to an Animas Vibe insulin pump, the study found. The beacons were also affected by iPhones, as previous studies had noted.

The reduction in range was significant and could delay rescues of buried avalanche victims, Miller said.

"I suggest therefore that any electronic device – including an insulin pump or a continuous glucose monitor, but also a MP3, cell phone, radio, etc – is kept as far away as possible from the avalanche beacon," he said.

The interference occurred when the pumps and monitors were closer than 30 centimetres to the beacons, the study found. The diabetes devices were not affected by the beacons.

To minimise the risk of signal interference, skiers or trampers might wear their beacons on an upper arm and then place their diabetes monitor or pump lower on the body, said Dr Lutz Heinemann, of Germany's Profil Institute for Clinical Research, who was involved in the study.

Some type 1 diabetes sufferers used a combination of an implanted insulin pump and a glucose monitor to control the levels of glucose and insulin in their blood. The devices wirelessly transmitted information to each other to keep blood glucose under control for extended periods.

One type of blood sugar monitor, the Dexcom G4 rtCGMS, did not appear to interfere with transceiver signals, the study found.

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 - Stuff

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