Antivirus Scan Stalls Heart Procedure for a Full 5 Minutes


A crucial medical device crashed during a heart procedure due to an antivirus scan that managed to crash the equipment, requiring doctors to perform a reboot of the computer entirely.

An antivirus software installed on a PC led to an untimely crash during a heart procedure, causing doctors to reboot the computer, disrupting the procedure for about five minutes. The mishap did not result in any complications and the doctors were able to complete their procedure without any risks to the patient.

The disrupted device is a Merge Hemo, a piece of medical equipment used to monitor and supervise heart catheterization procedures wherein doctors plug a catheter inside a patient’s arteries to diagnose heart diseases.

The incident occurred in February 2016 and came to light recently, following a report filed by Merge.

The hardware and software components make up the Merge Hemo, the main component being the medical device itself, connected to the catheters which takes readings and helps with analysis. The main component is connected to a local PC or portable tablets through a serial port.

The software component is installed on a tablet or computer and displays the recorded and logged data. The software, running on Windows OS, is vulnerable to the same drawbacks and pitfalls of any other software on an operating system.

The report filed by Merge Healthcare in February revealed the incident wherein the software crashed during the heart procedure. The screen went blank and the doctors had to ultimately reboot the computer, all while in the middle of a heart catheterization procedure.

The cause for the disruption and delay was an anti-malware software scan that was programmed to perform hourly scans.

The report read:

Information obtained from the customer indicated that there was a delay of about 5 minutes while the patient was sedated so that the application could be rebooted.

The antivirus fundamentally froze the monitoring and reporting application, leading the app to crash after it was unable to gather real-time data.

Absolving its product of any product malfunction or defect, Merge Healthcare added that it was due to the customer (the hospital) not following instructions when it came to the installation of anti-virus software.

“Our experience has shown that improper configuration of anti-virus software can have adverse affects including downtime and clinically unusable performance,” Merge added.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

Samburaj is the contributing editor at Hacked and keeps tabs on science, technology and cyber security.