Strength Of Electronic Device Magnets Presents Risk Of Pacemaker Interference

Individuals fitted with implanted cardiac devices (ICD) such as pacemakers should refrain from storing portable electronic devices like earbud charging cases in the chest pockets of their clothing, according to a new study published in Circulation: Arrhythmia and Electrophysiology. The magnets in these devices could alter the function of ICDs, possibly with dangerous consequences. Previous research discovered that newer smartphones’ magnetic fields might prevent pacemakers from issuing life-saving shocks if held within an inch of one another.

The Apple AirPods Pro wireless charging case, Apple Pencil (2nd generation), and the Microsoft Surface Pen were among the other portable electronic devices found to have built-in magnets strong enough to interfere with ICDs. The recent study indicates that more devices must be tested for their obstruction potential. The American Heart Association’s existing guidance recommends only a six-inch clearance from ICDs for cellphones and that individuals use the ear opposite the implant for conversations.

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“This research was the first step in identifying the importance of assessing some products for safety. The next step is to confirm these interactions by testing implanted devices in volunteer patients who are at the hospital for routine tests,” said Sven Knect, a research engineer at the University of Basel in Switzerland. Other portable electronics such as tablet implements and e-cigarettes are slated for ICD magnetic interference testing.