The risk to patients is currently considered low and no adverse events have been recorded.
New models of mobile phones and smart watches
can interfere with pacemakers and defibrillators, according to reports from researchers at the Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH) of the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Therefore, they recommend that patients maintain any consumer electronic device that
can create magnetic interference, including cell phones and smart watches, at least 15 centimeters away of implanted medical devices, particularly pacemakers and cardiac defibrillators, as published in Heart Rhythm, the official journal of the Heart Rhythm Society, the Society for Cardiac Electrophysiology, and the Society for Pediatric and Congenital Electrophysiology.
“Ensuring the safety of medical devices is a cornerstone of our consumer protection mission, especially as technology continues to advance,” explains lead researcher Seth J. Seidman, Research Electrical Engineer and EMC Program Advisor. of the CDRH.
“As part of this work, the agency reviewed recently published articles describing the possibility that certain newer mobile phones, smart watches and other consumer electronics with high field strength magnets could temporarily affect the normal operation of electronic medical devices. implants, such as pacemakers and implantable defibrillators, he explains. »Based on our review,
we decided to conduct our own tests to confirm and help inform appropriate recommendations for patients and consumers«.
Electronic devices implanted in the heart are intended to help with heart rhythm disorders, such as slow or fast heart rate. Implantable cardioverter defibrillators and pacemakers include a “magnet mode” designed to be used when a patient undergoes a procedure where electromagnetic interference is likely to occur, or when device suspension is necessary for medical treatment.
However, this function can also be activated accidentally from strong magnetic fields greater than 10G, which
It may change the operation of the device and could cause serious harm to the patient.
Historically, magnets strong enough to activate this magnetic mode were very large and identifiable, such as
stereo speakers or the electronic motors of cordless tools. However, with the advent of small rare earth magnets, strong magnetic fields can be found in
headphones, door locks, or small phone speakers.
The researchers tested the magnetic field output of all models of
iPhone 12 and Apple Watch 6 at different distances from devices. They found that all the devices have static magnetic fields significantly greater than 10G in proximity, high enough to put implanted heart devices in magnet mode. However, when a
separation distance of 15 centimeters or more, phones and watches do not activate magnet mode.
“Because of these results, we are taking steps to provide information to patients and healthcare providers to ensure that they are aware of the potential risks and that they can take simple proactive and preventive measures such as maintaining consumer electronics such as certain phones. cell phones and smart watches, 15 centimeters away from implanted medical devices and not carrying consumer electronics in a pocket over the medical device, ”advises Seidman.
We believe the risk to patients is low and the agency is not aware of any adverse events related to this issue at this time, “he continues. »However, the number of consumer electronics with strong magnets is expected to increase over time. Therefore, we recommend that people with implanted medical devices speak with their healthcare providers to ensure they understand this potential risk and the proper techniques for safe use.
In this sense, he assures that “the FDA will continue to monitor the effects of consumer electronics on the safe operation of medical devices.”