Smartphones and watches may interfere with pacemakers and defibrillators, FDA warns

Health

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — Magnets in new-generation electronics could block medical devices unless they are more than six inches away, according to the US Food and Drug Administration.

“Ensuring the safety of our nation’s medical devices is a cornerstone of our consumer protection mission, especially as technology continues to advance,” says study author Seth Seidman in a media release.

Pacemaker implants are one of the most common heart operations in the US, averaging about 200,000 yearly. Pacemakers are usually paused during surgeries through magnetic force, but interruptions like these can be dangerous without doctor supervision.

Now, newer electronics that contain earth metals like the iPhone 12, can create magnetic interruptions. While the risk to patients remains low, the magnetic interference produced by electronic devices will likely continue to rise. Patients equipped with a pacemaker or defibrillator should therefore take the necessary precautions.

“We believe the risk to patients is low and the agency is not aware of any adverse events associated with this issue at this time. However, the number of consumer electronics with strong magnets is expected to increase over time,” Seidman adds. A study supports the recommendation by the FDA, looking at Apple iPhone 12 and Apple 6 watches.

The FDA advises patients with implanted medical devices to consider taking precautions, including:

  • Keeping consumer electronics, such as certain cell phones and smart watches, six inches away from implanted medical devices.
  • Refraining from carrying consumer electronics in a pocket over the medical device.
  • Talking to your health care provider if you have questions regarding magnets in consumer electronics and implanted medical devices

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