iPad can interfere with heart devices

The iPad 2 can be bad for your heart — with a study showing is some cases the tablets interfere with lifesaving heart devices because of the magnets inside.

The research was carried out by 14-year-old Gianna Chien, who presented her findings to 8,000 doctors at the Heart Rhythm Society meeting in the US.

The research offers a valuable warning for people with implanted defibrillators, which deliver an electric shock to restart a stopped heart, said John Day, head of heart-rhythm services at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, Utah, and chairman of the panel that reviews scientific papers to be presented at the Denver meeting.

If a person falls asleep with the iPad 2 on the chest, the magnets in the cover can “accidentally turn off” the heart device, said Chien, from Stockton, California, whose father is a doctor.

Defibrillators are designed to be turned off by magnets. The iPad 2 uses 30 magnets to hold its cover in place, said Chien. While the magnets are not powerful enough to cause problems when a person is holding the tablet out in front of the chest, it can be risky to rest it against the body.

Trudy Muller, an Apple spokeswoman, declined to comment on the study in an email, referring questions about the iPad 2’s safety to its online product guide.

The guide cautions users about radio frequency interference, suggests that patients with pacemakers keep the iPad at least 15cm away and says they should be turned off in healthcare facilities when instructed by staff or posted signs.

The study involving 26 volunteers with defibrillators found “magnet mode” was triggered in 30% of patients who put the tablet on their chest. The iPad 2 did not interfere with four pacemakers or a loop-recorder, which were also tested. Walter Chien, a cardiac electrophysiologist, helped his daughter co-ordinate the patient testing.

Medtronic, the leading manufacturer of defibrillators, said its testing has not found any risks from iPad technology when used according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The company does tell patients to avoid placing any magnets near the area where their devices are implanted.

“The presentation at Heart Rhythm 2013 is a good reminder for patients to remain vigilant on new technology and its accessories and maintain a distance of 6in [15cm] between an iPad and an implanted pacemaker or ICD,” the company said in a statement.

Chien said she received an iPad 2 for her birthday in Aug 2011. She was struck by the number of older customers taking a class on how to use the device at the company store and, given her father’s speciality, wondered if there could be a connection between the iPads and their heart devices. “I don’t think anyone really knows about the risks,” she said.


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