FDA Warns Heart Implants May Be Impacted By Cell Phones, Smart Watches and Other Electronic Products

Popular electronic devices like cellphones and smart watches may interfere with heart implants, leading to catastrophic failure of the devices, according to a new warning issued by federal health regulators.

The U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a heart implant warning to consumers on May 13, indicating cell phones and other devices with high strength magnets may interfere with heart implants and cause serious health risks.

Many pacemakers and other implanted medical devices have a magnetic mode, so that patients can undergo MRI scans and other medical procedures, and then switch back to the standard function afterwards. However, the FDA warns the magnetic fields from cell phones and smart watches can deactivate the medical implants’ magnetic mode, or shut them down entirely.

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The implants are used to treat heart rhythm disorders, such as slow or fast heart rates, and if the device stops working, a patient may experience dizziness, loss of consciousness or even death if therapy is not delivered when lifesaving shocks are required.

There have been a few studies done to show the effects magnets in phones can have on medical implants. According to a report published on February 10 in the medical journal Heart Rhythm, electromagnetic fields from the iPhone 12 cell phones may interfere with, or disable, implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICD) and other cardiovascular implants, which could lead to severe injury or death.

According to the findings, when an Apple iPhone 12 cell phone was brought close to the ICD over the left chest area, the ICD functions immediately stopped. The ICD could not be made to function as long as the iPhone was near the chest area, the researchers report. Once the iPhone was taken away, function resumed.

The FDA warns consumers to keep their devices at least six inches away from the implanted medical devices, particularly cardiac defibrillators, so that there is no magnetic interference. They also warn consumers not to hold devices over the medical implant or place it in pockets near the implanted device.

In addition, they recommend heart implant patients check their device using their home monitoring system, if their implant came with one. They also recommend talking to a health care provider if they experience any symptoms or have questions regarding magnets in their devices interfering with their heart implants.

Many of the heart implants already carry warnings about keeping cell phones and similar devices at least six inches away.

The FDA says it believes the risks to be low, and the agency is not aware of any reports of incidents associated with the issue.


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