Philips Lifeline Pendant Help Buttons Pose Choke Hazard: FDA Warns

The FDA is warning consumers about a choke hazard associated with Philips Lifeline Pendant Personal Help Buttons, which are worn around the neck to allow people at risk for falls to summons emergency help. At least three deaths and three severe injuries have been reported in the United States and Canada since 1998 in connection with the emergency buttons.

While the FDA lauds the Philips Lifeline Pendant Personal Help Button for providing immediate access to emergency care for consumers who may not be able to recover from a fall or other health emergency without assistance, it warns that the choking hazard is a significant risk that users and their doctors need to consider. The warning was issued on Tuesday.

The FDA noted that the number of actual incidents of severe injury or death is very small, however, the severity of those injuries and the fact that there were multiple deaths involved, warranted the consumer warning.

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There are more than 750,000 of the pendants in the U.S. and Canada and most are used by senior citizens. They are worn around the neck and include a help button that the user can push when in distress that will allow them to call emergency assistance.

The Lifeline Pendant Personal Help Buttons are designed not to break when tugged, so that they will not become separated from the user as the result of a violent fall or trauma. The FDA says this causes a choking risk that could lead to serious injury or death, particularly in people who have lowered mobility and for those who use wheelchairs, walkers, beds with guardrails and other devices that could cause the cord to become entangled.

Philips Lifeline will send letters to all of its customers conveying the FDA’s warning. The company has also changed the labeling on the Lifeline Pendant packages to alert users that the product is a potential choking hazard.

The FDA is not recommending that consumers stop using the Lifeline Pendants, because of the low rate of actual incidents and the benefits the devices provide. However, the agency recommends that users and their health care providers assess the benefits and risks, and some may wish to consider using a different style of Lifeline Pendant, which also comes in a style that can be worn on the wrist.

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