Airpods, Apple Pencil and Other Tech Devices Interfere with Heart Implants, Study Warns

Powerful magnets found in many portable electronic devices could disable some functions of pacemakers and heart defibrillators.

A new study warns that powerful magnets in many portable electronic devices (PEDs), such as the popular smartphones, Apple Pencils, Airpods, Surface Pen and other accessories, could interfere with heart implants, and potentially even temporarily disable life-saving pacemakers and defibrillators.

The findings were published this month in the medical journal Circulation: Arrhythmia and Electrophysiology, detailing the potential dangers that these powerful magnets may pose for individuals with cardiovascular implantable devices (CIEDs).

When positioned within an inch of the chest, the magnets in an iPhone 12 Pro Max or similar device could interact with a pacemaker or implantable defibrillator, and temporarily disable the device.

For individuals with an implanted defibrillator that helps regulate their rapid heartbeat (tachycardia), this can be a potentially dangerous situation. When disabled in this way a defibrillator may be unable to detect tachycardia events.

People with pacemakers are similarly at risk. Though the magnetic field will not fully disable the pacemaker, it can put it into asynchronous mode where the life-saving device will lose its ability to sense a disruption in the normal heart rhythm and will be unable to trigger heart contractions accordingly.

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According to lead study author Corentin Féry, M.Sc., a research engineer at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland, Institute for Medical Engineering and Medical Informatics in Muttenz, Switzerland, heart patients should be aware of these risks, and doctor should tell patients to be careful with these electronic devices with magnets.”

Along with the Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max the researchers tested other PEDs that have strong magnetic fields and could possibly be carried or get extended usage close to a person’s chest. The tested devices include the Microsoft Surface Pen, Apple Pencil 2nd Generation, the Apple AirPods Pro, and their wireless charging case.

While there have been no reported deaths or injuries, as more and more smart devices are using powerful magnets, concerns for the potentially dangerous effects of these devices on people with cardiac conditions increases.

Researchers suggest that, in the interest of safety, people with pacemakers and implanted defibrillators keep smart devices at least 6 inches away from their heart implant.

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