iPads could affect implanted heart devices, early study finds

May 9, 2013 by Barbara Bronson Gray, Healthday Reporter
iPads could affect implanted heart devices, early study finds
Young researcher suggests that users avoid placing tablets too close to the chest.

(HealthDay)—Sprawled out on the couch, reading the news on your iPad, you'd never think you could be putting yourself at risk. But you might be, if you happen to have an implanted heart device.

Magnetic interference could alter the settings and even deactivate the technology of implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs), according to a small new study—conducted by a 14-year-old investigator and her colleagues.

The researchers found that magnets imbedded in the 2 and its Smart Cover may cause electromagnetic interference that can disrupt a device.

Specialized magnets are imbedded in the to allow physicians to routinely adjust their settings. The magnets can suspend the ability of the devices to prevent sudden rapid , such as tachycardia and .

That risk occurs when a person falls asleep with the tablet on the chest. Thirty percent of study participants had interference with their devices when the iPad 2 was placed there, the researchers found. Yet was not found when the iPad was at a normal reading distance from the chest.

The magnetic field drops off quickly with distance, explained Gianna Chien, the lead study author. And heavier people who happen to have more fat on their chest—not just in their abdomen—also seem to be less sensitive to the interference, she added.

The research is scheduled to be presented Thursday at the Heart Rhythm Society's annual meeting in Denver. Chien, a high school freshman, worked with her father, Dr. Walter Chien, a cardiologist with Central Valley in Stockton, Calif., to coordinate patient testing.

Other devices with imbedded magnets—such as cellphones and (MRI) machines—may also affect cardiac rhythm devices, but were not tested in this study.

Last year, research published in the Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics suggested that the iPad 2 can interfere with the settings of magnetically programmable shunt devices in the brain when held within two inches of the technology.

That study reported on a 4-month-old girl with hydrocephalus—abnormal accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the brain—who developed a shunt malfunction. This was due to a changed setting of the magnetically programmable valve that regulates the flow of CSF out of the brain cavity, or ventricle. The mother had been using an iPad 2 while holding the infant.

An expert noted how difficult it could be to detect such a malfunction.

"The real problem is that you don't even know; there is no trigger, no light goes off [to alert you]," said Dr. Salvatore Insinga, a neurosurgeon at the Cushing Neuroscience Institute at North Shore-LIJ Health System, in New York. "With all the tech devices people are using now and all the implanted things in patients, this is more of an issue now." Insinga was not associated with either study.

The new heart rhythm device study involved 27 patients at Central Valley Arrhythmia. Just three patients were women. All were at least 50 years old and had implantable cardiac defibrillators, pacemakers or loop recorders (implanted cardiac monitors). The effect of the close presence of an iPad2 on the chest and at reading distance—at various programming settings on the iPad and on the heart devices—was noted.

The authors found that almost 19 percent of the patients with defibrillators had interference from the iPad 2. No effects were noted in the people who had implanted pacemakers or the loop recorder.

Gianna Chien said the study had limitations: The sample size was small, and she would like to test a wider variation of heart devices, because most were manufactured by St. Jude Medical.

The bottom line? Insinga at Cushing Neuroscience recommended that physicians discuss with their patients the risks that technological devices may pose to the settings and function of any implanted devices, and check their patients' medical devices frequently. "No more 'set it and forget it,'" he said.

Chien thinks the issue will continue to pose problems unless the design of tablets changes. "With the aging of the population, there's an expected increase in ICD placement and, with more than 100 million iPads sold, it's a concern," she said.

Because the study was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Explore further: Tablet computers may interfere with settings on magnetically programmable shunt valves

More information: Learn more about heart device safety from the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Related Stories

Tablet computers may interfere with settings on magnetically programmable shunt valves

June 26, 2012
Researchers at the University of Michigan have found that the Apple iPad 2 can interfere with settings of magnetically programmable shunt devices, which are often used to treat children with hydrocephalus. The iPad 2 contains ...

Swimming pools may pose hazard for people with heart devices

May 9, 2013
(HealthDay)—With summer approaching, researchers caution that swimming pools may pose a risk to patients with irregular heartbeats who've received implantable defibrillators.

Study finds electric car does not interfere with implanted cardiac devices

March 10, 2013
A Mayo Clinic study has concluded that patients with implanted cardiac devices such as pacemakers and defibrillators can safely drive or ride in an electric car without risk of electromagnetic interference (EMI).

Wireless pacemaker shows promise in early study

May 9, 2013
(HealthDay)—Scientists report positive results in early testing of a wireless pacemaker that's placed in the heart instead of being connected to it via wires from the upper chest.

Hopkins study finds MRI tests safe for people with implanted cardiac devices

October 3, 2011
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), an important diagnostic test, has traditionally been off limits to more than 2 million people in the United States who have an implanted pacemaker to regulate heart rhythms or an implanted ...

Recommended for you

Starting periods before age of 12 linked to heightened risk of heart disease and stroke

January 15, 2018
Starting periods early—before the age of 12—is linked to a heightened risk of heart disease and stroke in later life, suggests an analysis of data from the UK Biobank study, published online in the journal Heart.

'Decorated' stem cells could offer targeted heart repair

January 10, 2018
Although cardiac stem cell therapy is a promising treatment for heart attack patients, directing the cells to the site of an injury - and getting them to stay there - remains challenging. In a new pilot study using an animal ...

Exercise is good for the heart, high blood pressure is bad—researchers find out why

January 10, 2018
When the heart is put under stress during exercise, it is considered healthy. Yet stress due to high blood pressure is bad for the heart. Why? And is this always the case? Researchers of the German Centre for Cardiovascular ...

Two simple tests could help to pinpoint cause of stroke

January 10, 2018
Detecting the cause of the deadliest form of stroke could be improved by a simple blood test added alongside a routine brain scan, research suggests.

Heart-muscle patches made with human cells improve heart attack recovery

January 10, 2018
Large, human cardiac-muscle patches created in the lab have been tested, for the first time, on large animals in a heart attack model. This clinically relevant approach showed that the patches significantly improved recovery ...

Place of residence linked to heart failure risk

January 9, 2018
Location. Location. Location.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.